Britain’s FSA Greenlights ‘Traffic Lights’ Food Labelling

29 November 2004

The British government's Food Standards Agency on Friday gave its blessing to the controversial 'traffic lights' food labelling system - so called because it harnesses the universally understood symbolism of traffic lights colour coding.

All food and beverage products will be required to feature the system on their labelling. A green light (vegetables, for example) would signify the food is healthy and can be consumed in unlimited quantities; an amber light indicates a percentage of poor nutritional content, to be consumed in moderation; while red warns that the product contains excessive, sugar, salt or fat.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising fears that the system could 'demonise' products graded red [WAMN 18-Nov-04] and there have been token protests by food manufacturers, many of whom privately regard adoption of the system as the least of alternative evils.

A staggering 75% of adults and 20% of children in the UK are officially classified as overweight, while the near-exponential growth in obesity levels has triggered fears that the UK will soon vie in the lard-assed league with the USA, currently the undisputed world champion.

Working within the 'traffic lights' concept - which the government accepts may be over-simplistic - will be a colour subset with two additional categories: light red (eat less often) and light green (eat often).

In tandem with the UK food industry, the scheme will be piloted instore across the nation with completion of the trials targeted for summer 2005. The findings will be used to hone signposting options.

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff