As The Grocer has been warning in its Junk the Spin campaign, traffic-light labelling is very much on the agenda as a result of the White Paper.
Although traffic lights are not mentioned, it uses the phrase “signposting foods”, which it says should “make it easier for people to see at a glance how individual foods contribute to a healthy balanced diet”.
The government says it intends to work with the food industry to develop a signposting approach. The goal is to have “a clear straightforward coding system in common use”.
The idea is “that busy people can understand at a glance which foods can make a positive contribution to a healthy diet, and which are recommended to be eaten only in moderation or sparingly”.
In an interview on BBC’s Newsnight, the health secretary John Reid said: “That may mean traffic lights, or it may mean another system. That is what the discussion will be about.”
Acknowledging that control over most labelling now rests with the EU, rather than with the British government, the White Paper says “we will press vigorously for progress before and during the UK presidency of the European Union in 2005 to simplify nutrition labelling and make it mandatory on packaged foods”.
The Food and Drink Federation has been at the forefront of opposition to traffic-light labelling, warning that it would be simplistic and would demonise some types of food that are vital to a healthy diet.
Deputy director general Martin Paterson said: “We will work with the Food Standards Agency to develop a form of signposting that is useful for consumers, that is do-able, and which the industry can buy into.”