GDA labels are the way to go, says Tony Palmer, Managing Director, Kellogg UK

Obesity is a complex problem with many causes and any solution needs partnership between many different organisations - both public and private. That is why Kellogg, Kraft, Nestlé and PepsiCo have agreed to take a common approach to front-of-pack GDA labelling to help consumers see what's in their food at a glance.

This marks a far-reaching step in our commitment to enhance nutrition information and demonstrates the industry's dedication to helping meet pledges in the government's 'Choosing Health' White Paper.

We launched front-of-pack GDAs in 2005 and consumers have overwhelmingly told us they find this very useful when comparing products. They were developed by nutrition experts from government, manufacturing and retail, and are now widely used by manufacturers and retailers.

We don't believe in dictating what consumers should eat, but we do believe we can help them make informed choices about their breakfast. For 100 years we have informed consumers about the importance of a balanced diet and physical activity. There is much still to do - breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but one child in five still skips it every day.

Demonising foods won't work. Consumers know that all foods can fit within a balanced diet and they increasingly ask for industry help to guide their choices. Our GDA system does precisely that.

Some consumer groups have criticised industry for taking the lead and not committing to the traffic light system recommended by the Food Standards Agency. After all, it's only a label, right?

Wrong. Labels alone cannot change the population's eating habits, but they may help communicate broader messages about diet and the importance of breakfast.

It is far too early to know exactly how consumers' buying habits will be affected by GDAs, but there is considerable evidence that consumers find nutrition labelling in the current format difficult to interpret. However, with a common format across major manufacturers and some retailers, we are able to collect data and research on consumer use and understanding of labels.

The FSA's own research highlighted that consumers would prefer a standardised front-of-pack system with simplified nutritional information, and identified that consumers prefer to use GDAs to help them choose between similar products. Industry nutrition experts considered all options carefully. For example, Tesco originally trialled traffic light labelling, but research revealed that customers found it confusing. So it switched to a GDA-based scheme that has proved more effective in helping consumers select healthier options.

Traffic lights give too simplistic a view. Firstly, this system doesn't allow consumers to compile a diet for specific nutritional needs or explain why a food is classified as red, amber or green. It also ignores positive nutrients. So a red-rated food can contain beneficial levels of iron, calcium and fibre.

Secondly, the FSA scheme that dictates the traffic light bands will only ever be acceptable if it relates to actual portion sizes, rather than uniform 100g amounts. Ignoring portion sizes creates anomalies. For example, chips (1 amber, 3 green) are classified as 'more healthy' than milk (2 amber, 2 green), despite having four times the energy and twice the saturated fat per average serving. Or, compared with a bowl of Rice Krispies (2 green, 1 amber, 1 red), chips contain four and a half times the energy, 86 times the fat and 76 times the saturated fat.

Thirdly, many healthier options would carry the same traffic lights as the original variants - for example, a beef stew and dumplings ready meal (3 amber, 1 green). Yet the original contains twice the amount of fat and 40% more salt.

We believe GDAs provide more incentive for healthy innovation as it is easier to improve a percentage than to change a traffic light colour category.