Call to make traffic light nutrition labels on food mandatory

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Food manufacturers should be forced to put traffic light nutrition labels on the front of packs, council leaders have said.

The voluntary scheme, which sees foods highlighted as red, amber or green according to how many  grams of salt, sugar and fat they contain, should be rolled out on a mandatory basis, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.

At present, around two-thirds of products sold in stores in the UK carry the traffic light labels.

Developed by the Food Standards Agency more than a decade ago, the system tells consumers whether foods have a low (green), medium (amber) or high (red) amount of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt.

The LGA said research suggests shoppers take just 15 seconds on average to choose an item. It argued that a fully rolled-out labelling scheme would help them make healthier choices.

Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the LGA's community wellbeing board, said: "Councils have long called for better labelling of food and drink to help consumers make more informed and healthier choices.

"While many retailers and manufacturers have different methods of displaying nutritional content, this can be confusing.

"Consumers need a single, standard and consistent system which should be universally adopted. It needs to be something that they can read and understand quickly and easily.

"The UK is leading the way with its traffic light scheme, which is already widely used, and provides clear, at-a-glance information. It is something many shoppers are familiar with and find helpful.

"But we want the Government to go one step further and make it mandatory for all retailers and manufacturers to adopt."

Two-thirds of adults and more than a fifth of four and five-year-olds are obese or overweight.

Figures released by Public Health England (PHE) earlier this week showed that 3.8 million people in England have diabetes. Most cases are Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity.