15 March 2007, 19:02 PM
  • A new campaign has been launched by 21 major food companies and retailers to label food more clearly with its nutritional content in a bid to combat the UK's rise in obesity.

But the guideline daily amount (GDA) system chosen by the groups, including Nestle and Kellogg’s, is different from the traffic light system endorsed by the Food Standards Agency, sparking controversy among health campaigners.

More than 10,000 lines from the groups will be labelled with GDA information, amounting to nearly 40% of all UK retail food and drink packs.

The groups involved chose to use the GDA system as they believe it is easy to use and people can use it to assess actual portions of food, rather than 100g blocks.

Under the traffic light system, supported by the Co-Op, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Asda, per 100g amounts are used to determine the colour code.

Food industry GDA campaign director, Jane Holdsworth, said, “This isn’t just about a label, it’s about a lifestyle. We have made it simple to compare what’s inside thousands of everyday foods so you can choose what best suits your diet.”

Responding to the new campaign, the National Heart Forum (NHF) has said that the GDA system is “flawed” and the two competing labelling techniques reveal the need for the government to regulate front of pack food labelling. “It’s both disappointing and somewhat surprising that the food industry has done this, especially as it professes to cooperate fully with government and has been involved throughout the process of the development of the FSA labelling scheme,” said Sir Alexander Macara, chair of the NHF.

“This is a flawed conversion to health labelling and a blatant move by the food industry to do what suits them, not their customers.”

And, explaining its support of the traffic light system, the Children’s Food Campaign said, “[It] provides consumers,including children, with quick and easy to understand information on whether a product is high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar.

“Evidence from Sainsbury’s has demonstrated that traffic light labelling influences consumers to purchase more healthy food and drink products.”