Sandwich labels mislead consumers

Gareth Fuller/PA

Supermarkets and high street coffee chains have been slammed for poor labelling that means consumers could be eating three times as much as fat and double the amount of salt as the same sandwich bought elsewhere.

Retailers such as Tesco, Aldi, Morrisons, Caffe Nero and Greggs are criticised by Which? for failing to print so-called 'traffic light labelling' on the front of packs to display the nutritional value of sandwiches.

The consumer group researched the nutritional value of the nation's favourite sandwiches – chicken salad, egg mayonnaise and bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT) - on sale at supermarkets and coffee chains.

The results showed that fat and salt content varied widely while inconsistent labelling meant that the healthiest sandwich options were not always made clear. A Morrisons chicken salad sandwich for example, contains almost double the amount of fat (11.7g) than the same sandwich from Waitrose (6.0g). Similarly, a Lidl BLT has 3.36g salt but one from Boots has 1.5g salt.

Clearer labelling
Morrisons and Lidl are among the many retailers that don't use the traffic light system – so how can we identify the healthiest options? While nutritional details have to outlined on the back of packaging by law, it is difficult to make quick comparisons and Which? is campaigning for clearer, easy-to-understand labelling on the front to help consumers make healthier choices.

The traffic light labelling system uses a colour-coded wheel of red, amber and green symbols to indicate levels of salt, fat and other nutrients but is not compulsory in the UK.

Which? found that only six out of the 15 retailers it compared include the Food Standards Agency traffic light system - Asda, Boots, M&S, The Co-operative, Sainsbury's and Waitrose – while the rest do not.

Government consultation
The government has launched a consultation on food labelling this week to determine the best way to make consumers aware of the fat, sugar and salt content of the food we buy.Which? is urging all food retailers and manufacturers to adopt clear front-of-pack labelling which includes traffic lights.

"With obesity levels reaching epidemic proportions, it's more important than ever that consumers know exactly what they're eating," said Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director.

"Many retailers are already using traffic light labelling, but the rest need to catch up and do what works best for consumers. We want to see the government insist that all food companies use traffic lights on their labels, so there's a clear, consistent system that makes it easier for people to make informed choices about what they eat."

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