A change of government could bring about the demise of the Food Standards Agency’s traffic-light labelling after the Conservative Party signalled its intention to work with the food industry on a voluntary basis to combat rising obesity levels.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said a Tory government would back EU plans for mandatory GDAs – with any traffic lights or ­colour-coding voluntary.

“For four years I have argued for a GDA-based system,” Lansley said. “The government’s obsession with a traffic-light system has blocked progress. Why push a system that only tells people a fraction of what they need to know?”

In his speech ‘No Excuses, No Nannying’ to the thinktank Reform this week, Lansley outlined a “responsibility deal” shifting emphasis on public health towards the lifestyle choices of individuals.

Initiatives to reduce portion sizes and improve products’ nutritional content would be “industry-led” and while “proportionate regulation for advertising” will continue, Lansley said, “legislation will be a last resort”. The news will be welcomed by the food industry, with opposition to the FSA’s traffic lights widespread.

“The ‘responsibility deal’ identifies where industry can continue to make a real difference for consumers,” said an FDF spokeswoman. In a further boost to the industry, Unilever UK chairman Dave Lewis is to head a new public health working party, including business representatives, voluntary groups and health experts.

Topics