Traffic light labels adopted for Irish oats

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Northern ireland Nutrition

Northern Ireland cereal company White's said Tuesday that it will
adopt the UK Food Standard Agency's (FSA) traffic light labelling,
as part of a drive to encourage healthy eating in the region.

White's decision to use the labelling scheme on its Speekicook range of oat cereals will be regarded as a victory for the FSA, which has been pushing for all companies to adopt the traffic light symbol since it came up with the idea in 2004.

Companies that comply with the voluntary scheme put labels with three round symbols, representing saturated fats, sugars and salts, on food products.

The symbols are coloured red, amber or green to show whether the levels of fat, sugar and salt are high, medium or low.

The system is intended to show consumers at a glance which foods are healthier, as these have more green symbols, and which are unhealthy, those with two or three red symbols.

Mark Gowdy, White's sales manager, said that the company had decided to use the labels to encourage consumers to adopt a better diet.

"The traffic light labelling will mean that consumers will be able to quickly see the nutritional benefits of eating oats," he added.

According to the FSA, White's is the fifth food company to adopt the labelling scheme in Northern Ireland after Moy Park, Avondale Foods, Mash Direct and Tasty Foods.

Director of FSA Northern Ireland Morris McAllister praised White's decision, adding that health problems linked to diet are high in the region, as they are in the rest of the UK.

"As we all know, obesity is on the increase and poor diet is a contributory risk factor in heart disease, cancer and stroke," he said.

"Last year in Northern Ireland 2,708 deaths were caused by heart disease and a further 1,307 were caused by stroke."

According to British Heart Foundation (BHF) statistics released in July, one in five men and one in six women in the UK will die of cardiovascular disease (CVD), while one in three of all deaths are caused by CVD.

Northern Ireland, along with Wales, has what the BHF calls an "intermediate" level of heart related illness.

Scotland's CVD incidence level is rated as high, while the Southern region of England is rated as low.

Other companies who have adopted the traffic light labelling scheme include Waitrose, Sainsbury's, the Co-op, M&S, McCain, the New Covent Garden Food Company and Moy Park, according to the FSA website.

However several other manufacturers have rejected the traffic light colour scheme, arguing that it is confusing for consumers and does not provide accurate nutritional information.

In March, Danone, Kellogg's, Kraft, Nestle and PepsiCo and retailers Tesco and Morrisons joined together to launch a £4m campaign to promote guideline daily amount (GDA) labels.

The GDA system tells consumers the percentage of the adult male Guideline Daily Amount of the four key nutrients that each product contains, and so will allow consumers to 'make better-informed decisions about the food they eat'.

Food law experts at Eversheds agreed with these manufacturers, warning that the FSA's refusal to listen to the food industry would lead various confusing labelling systems.

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