Although Tesco, on whose labelling scheme the suppliers are believed to have based their own initiative, welcomed the move, other leading retailers were more sceptical.
Sainsbury - which has been using its own Wheel of Health system, a colour-coded hybrid combining elements of GDA and traffic light labelling - urged manufacturers to “go further”.
It also chose Thursday - the day of the manufacturers’ announcement - to run an
advertising blitz for Wheel of Health. Ads boasted that the scheme was “the easier way to make a healthy choice”.
In a separate statement, Sainsbury said that GDAs had been around for “almost a decade” and that “simply moving this information from the back of packs to the front is not much of a leap forward”.
It added that the FSA had indicated that Wheel of Health was the closest to the traffic light approach it favoured and showed consumers at a glance what was in their food.
Gwyn Burr, customer director at Sainsbury, said: “It’s good news that food manufacturers and retailers are looking at clearer labelling of food, but moving GDAs from the back of packs to the front does not go far enough. Being prepared to colour-code products is doing the real job and is honest and transparent. It means making hard calls about labelling and potentially running the risk that customers decide not to buy a product if it comes out red.”
Asda said it would wait for the final FSA recommendations before deciding which format it planned to adopt. A spokesman added: “It should be consistent across products otherwise consumers will struggle to compare like with like.”
A spokesman for Morrisons said: “We are reviewing our labelling and considering various signposting. We are in contact with the FSA, which is involved with our review.”