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BMA backs food 'traffic lights'

27th February 2007

The British Medical Association (BMA) has given its backing to the traffic light coding system on food packaging.

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The decision comes as a new survey reveals that the majority of the public also supports the labelling system which offers a simple red, amber and green guide to nutrition.  A series of ‘green lights’ indicate a food is low in sugar, salt and fats whereas three ‘red lights’ warn shoppers that a product is a high in these substances.  The Netmums website surveyed more than 17,000 parents and found that 80% backed the traffic lights labelling system.

However, some food manufacturers and retailers still prefer to use the guideline daily amounts (GDA) system which, they say, provides customers with more detailed information about calories, sugars and fats. Tesco has determinedly stuck to the GDA classification, saying it is convinced its approach is better for people trying to achieve a balanced diet throughout the day.  But The National Heart Forum says GDA markings are complex and misleading and it backs the Food Standards Agency in asking the food industry to adopt traffic light labelling.

A spokesperson for the Netmums website said the strength of the traffic lights scheme was its simplicity. Dr Vivienne Nathanson of the BMA agrees saying, “The traffic lights system is something you can even see from a distance, so you can start to hone in on the foods that are predominantly green or green and amber, and just cut down on the foods that are marked red."

 

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