A new traffic light food labelling system to help people check the healthiness of products at a glance could be in place by next year.
The red-amber-green colour-coded guide will sit alongside more detailed guideline daily amounts informing people about the levels of sugar, fat, saturated fat, salt and calories that are contained in each product.
“This new format will make it easier for us all to keep track of what we eat and choose healthier products. We have fought long and hard in the interests of our consumers, and consistent labelling is the best outcome possible,” Matheson said, adding that he “commends” the major retailers who have “come on board” with the voluntary scheme.
The four UK governments will now work on practical guidance for implementation in 2013. Matheson said the Scottish Government is also having wider discussions with major manufacturers, retailers and caters about broader actions in Scotland to inspire healthier food choices, adding:
“Consistent nutritional labelling across the UK is a vital step forwards to improving the health of the nation.”
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) welcomed today’s announcement about front of pack labelling, calling it “a significant step forward.”
BDA chair Helen Davidson said: “The British Dietetic Association (BDA) wants consumers to have access to clear, consistent, at glance information to help them to make informed choices about the food they buy and eat. Consumers need a quick understanding of the relative healthiness of a product.”
In a recent interview with Holyrood magazine, Professor Anne Ludbrook, chair of health economics at the University of Aberdeen’s Health Economics Research Unit, also advocated a traffic light food labelling system. She explained that, today, many products have hidden levels of salt, sugar, and fat, which can make healthy decisions more complex
“If you are consciously trying to lose weight you have to really focus quite hard no what you are doing,” she said.
“So anything that we could build into the system that would make the automatic decisions a bit easier, [such as] the idea of having traffic light nutrition labels as well as all this very detailed information, because some people like to have the detailed information. But if you could see the reds, ambers and greens it would be slightly easier to make a quick decision.”
You can read more about measures that could help to address obesity in Scotland in the latest issue of Holyrood magazine