Breaking: UK Gives Up on Traffic Light Nutrition Labels

In a blow to consumer in the UK, and possibly in the US, The Food Standards Agency (same as our FDA) has decided to back off their proposed traffic light nutrition labeling on the front of food packages. According to the Daily Mail:

The FSA board yesterday supported a plan that will allow food companies to decide for themselves whether they want to use the colour-based system or a number of alternatives.

The net effect is that families will continue to be confronted by a range of confusing nutrition labelling schemes that are difficult to decipher.

Tesco and other leading industry figures have spent millions of pounds trying to kill off traffic light labelling.They have developed alternative schemes which critics insist only serve to confuse customers.

The decision by the FSA is a major climb down by the Government watchdog. Its support for traffic light labels was central to a wider policy to tackle the problem of rising obesity and ill-health. Read more…

What you need to know:

This is an unfortunate happening that is bound to have a ripple effect on our labeling regulations as well. The FDA is getting more aggressive with the food industry’s misleading health claims. The next step would be to create a standard front of pack labeling system that would serve consumers by not only embellishing positive traits of a product, but also warn about high levels of negative nutrients such as sodium, sugar, and saturated fat.

The “problem” with the traffic lights is that they were scaring off customers. People would see one or two reds and decide not to buy a product. That’s why the industry came up with various multicolor solutions where the color itself is meaningless, for example GDA (guideline daily amount).

What to do at the supermarket:

Until the government regulatory bodies figure out how to save us, let’s help ourselves by learning to read nutrition labels and ingredient lists.

(Thanks Greg Miller for the hat tip)

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  • TwinToddlersDad

    Unbelievable! I thought this was a good system that had the potential to influence the front-of-labeling debate in the US. I am disappointed.
    Clearly, lobbying works outside the US too!

  • Chou

    Disappointing indeed. Back to all responsibility in the consumer basket.

  • Colin Hall

    It always makes me laugh when schemes like this fold as quickly as this one did. A few bad headlines from a bunch of interfering busy-bodies who probably have never taken nutritional advice from anyone [and who will probably develop gout in their 40's]. With the financial investment in to this scheme I thought that it might at least be given a couple of years to see if the subliminal messages get through to the users.

  • Weightlossdiet411

    Traffic light nutrition label systems are interesting in that they are easy for the consumer to ‘read’ but manufacturers are having issues because they don’t want their unhealthy foods being revealed. Australia introduced the system to mixed results and there are American studies being done. It will be interesting to see if they give up on it too.


    I thought this was a really good idea, for something to work you have to stick with it not just give up. 

  • wccrispy

    One of the biggest problems with the labeling is that fat is not bad for you.  Butter is a saturated fat.  What makes butter:  milk, cream, and salt.  How is that bad for you?  The study by Ancel Keys about the correlation of fat and heart disease was a biased study.  He picked the data that fit the view that he wanted people to see and left the rest out.  Foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates definitely need that red label though.  These days we have to educate ourselves. is a great place to learn