A new front-of-pack food labelling that has the support of all the major supermarkets and a number of leading manufacturers has been launched in the UK in a bid to tackle the country’s obesity crisis. The new label aims to make it easier for people to make healthier choices.

The label combines traffic light colour-coding and nutritional information in the new form of “Reference Intakes” (RI) in place of GDAs (Guideline Daily Amounts) to show how much of the maximum daily intake of fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories is in a 100g portion. The consistent system will combine red, amber, green colour-coding and nutritional information to show how much fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar, and calories are in food products.

Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, the Co-operative, Waitrose and Tesco will use the label on their own label products, alongside manufacturers including Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Premier Foods, Bernard Matthews, and McCain Foods.  The government is hoping the new scheme will contribute to efforts to cut obesity in the UK with recent studies suggesting that over 60 per cent of the adult population in England is overweight. The Department of Health said the businesses that had signed up to using the new label to date accounted for more than 60 per cent of the food that is sold in the UK.

However despite rising obesity, according to a new report consumers are eating 600 fewer calories than they were 30 years ago. The study which has been part funded by the government claims that there has been a 20 per cent drop in calories consumed over the period. The fall in calories is almost all due to changes in choices towards a less calorie dense diet in the home.  Calories from eating out and consumed on the go had increased by about 15 per cent. Yet over the period of the study there has been a steady increase in the weight of both woman and men. The average man in his 20’s weights 7kg more than in 1980 while those aged 55 – 60 have put on an extra 14kg compared with their predecessors in the 1980s.

By Gillian Swaine, London Office, Bord Bia

Image Shuttlestock/Graph courtesy Bord Bia