Debate about nutrition labelling started well before the obesity epidemic and even now it is hard to find a consensus.
Two new studies favour traffic lights.
Ecuador introduced traffic light labelling for processed food packaging in August 2014. Scientists from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito found that the scheme had increased awareness, changed attitudes and “modified patterns of purchase and consumption”, concluding that it was “an effective mechanism for communicating information about the fat, sugar and salt in processed food.”
Admittedly, however, the sample was modest and another study has showed limited benefit in less educated and poorer groups.
Dutch consumers have also expressed a preference for traffic lights in a recent survey.
The Netherlands already has a voluntary scheme, but it is being phased out by October 2018 because its healthy ‘Choices’ logo can be applied to some products which are high in fat, salt or sugar.
Given a range of alternatives, 51% of those questioned by the Consumentenbond consumer group opted for the UK front of pack traffic light display. 29% supported the French five tiered Nutri-Score system and 8% liked the Nordic region’s keyhole logo.
71% wanted nutrition labelling to be on the front of packs. Other majority views supported use across all products and by all manufacturers, with 74% backing supervision by an independent body.
Other findings were that a scheme should be time-saving and deliver information at a glance.
The weight of consumers is proving hard to reduce. The weight of evidence is shifting towards traffic lights.