The three food giants PepsiCo, Mars and Nestlé and most British supermarkets are introducing a system of ‘traffic lights’ on food products they sell in the United Kingdom. With this they follow the British government, who wanted consumers to be informed better.
The system of traffic lights adds a colour code to the food label, so the consumer can see instantly if the quantities of fats, saturated fats, sugars and salt are high, average or low. In 2010 it seemed this system would become obligated in the European Union, but parliament did not follow through, under pressure of the food lobby.
The British government and health services did however like the concept: research has shown that consumers better understand these colour codes than the regular labelling with numbers and percentages per portion and as such, they insisted on introducing this system on a national level.
The majority of British retailers (Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, the Co-operative, Waitrose and Tesco) have, together with a number of large producers (among them the British division of PepsiCo, Mars, Nestlé, Premier Foods and McCain), instated these colour codes on a voluntary basis. The participating companies together have a market share of 60% in food. Not all producers like the system though: Coca-Cola and Cadbury have rejected the system.
Rest of Europe?
“In times where obesity is a big problem in Europe, we see no reason why such an easy tool – that informs fast and clearly – should only be reserved for consumers in those countries”, says Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.
“By obligating themselves to implement the traffic light system, these popular producers and brands finally listen to the consumer and they recognise their right for fast and clear information. This is a true revolution. And these food giants should also implement this on the other European markets”, says Monique Goyens.