The debate over the simple traffic light system on food packaging has ramped up again, with Choice calling for the practise to be mandatory.
With labels on foods more confusing than ever before, the red, green and amber colours on the front of packaging would make it easier for consumers to know the amount of the main nutrients, such as fat, sugars and salt in products.
The calls from Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group follow the report recently released about misleading claims on muesli, with some found to have double the fat content of a Quarter Pounder.
“A spoonful of muesli may be a mouthful of sugar and fat,” the Choice report said.
Of the 159 types of muesli available to consumers in Australia it tested, Choice found only ten brands met Australian food regulator FSANZ’s definition of “low fat”, defined as no more than 3 per cent fat.
Only 11 brands met FSANZ’s definition for “low sugar,” which is no more than 5 per cent sugars.
The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has disagreed with the traffic light system, saying it is too simplistic to work.
“Traffic light labels categorise foods as good and bad – but all foods can form part of a balanced diet, “AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell said.
“Industry rejects traffic light labelling on the basis that it’s badly understood by consumers and the system has been rejected by countries around the world including in Europe.
“The Daily Intake Guide (DIG) is the labelling system preferred by the European Union and Canada.”
“Daily Intake Guide labels – which appear on more than 4000 supermarket products in Australia – outline the amount of energy, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in a standard portion of the food and how that translates to average daily intake.”
In June the AFGC welcomed the move by Woolworths to add DIG information to the foods it produces.
In the same month the European Parliament decided not to implement the traffic light labeling system, saying it was too unclear.
It was decided to focus more on clearly defining how much fat, carbohydrates, and sodium each product in European supermarkets contains.