Press release

Final design of consistent nutritional labelling system given green light

People will now find it easier to make healthier choices about the food they eat with the new consistent front of pack nutritional label.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


People will now find it easier to make healthier choices about the food they eat with the new consistent front of pack nutritional label launched today by Public Health Minister Anna Soubry.

This comes after research shows that people can end up bewildered by the different nutrition labels on food. The new label aims to make it easier for people to make healthier choices.

The consistent system will combine red, amber, green colour-coding and nutritional information to show how much fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar, and calories are in food products.

Today, MARS UK, Nestlé UK, PepsiCo UK, and Premier Foods have announced that they will join all the major retailers, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ASDA, Morrisons, the Co-operative and Waitrose, in using the consistent label on their products. Manufacturer McCain Foods, which already uses front of pack, will be using the consistent label too.

This comes after detailed discussions with the UK governments working with the food industry, health NGOs and other partners to agree the proposed system and what the label would look like.

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said:

The UK already has the largest number of products using a front of pack label in Europe but we know that people get confused by the variety of labels that are used. Research shows that, of all the current schemes, people like this label the most and they can use the information to make healthier choices.

We all have a responsibility to tackle the challenge of obesity, including the food industry. By having all major retailers and manufacturers signed up to the consistent label, we will all be able to see at a glance what is in our food – this is why I want to see more manufacturers signing up and using the label.

Obesity and poor diet cost the NHS billions of pounds every year. Making small changes to people’s diet can have a big impact to their health and could stop people getting serious illnesses – such as heart disease – later in life.

People will be able to use the colours to understand the levels of nutrients in the food they are eating. The labels are not designed to demonise foods with lots of reds but to have people consider what they are eating and make sure it’s part of a balanced diet.

People will also be able to compare the same kinds of foods at a glance to see if there’s a healthier option, for example, if they are buying a ready meal.

Which? Executive Director, Richard Lloyd, said:

For years Which? has been calling for food companies to use traffic light labels so we welcome this big step forward towards making it easier for consumers to make healthy choices. With levels of obesity and diet-related disease on the increase, it’s vitally important that people know what is in their food, and this labelling scheme will encourage food companies to do more to reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat in popular products.

We hope that more food manufacturers will join the scheme so that their labels will be consistent and comparable to those on the front of the retailers’ own packs.

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said:

This is undeniably a first-class scheme that will make it easier for shoppers to scan the shelves and make more informed choices about what’s going in their trolley.

High levels of diet-related chronic diseases in the UK, including heart disease, mean it’s essential we have clear and consistent food labeling so people can make healthy choices.

We’re delighted all the major supermarkets are committed to the scheme and look forward to more food manufacturers signing up.

As part of the government’s work to reduce obesity levels, the Department of Health is working with industry, through the Responsibility Deal, to get business taking action to reduce the amount of calories, salt and trans fat in foods. The consistent front of pack label will be a new Responsibility Deal pledge that food and drink companies can sign up to and deliver.

Businesses that have signed up to using the new label today already account for more than 60% of the food that is sold in the UK. Guidance for business has been published on developing front of pack nutrition labels.

Background information

The new consistent label will include the below information presented consistently per portion of food:

  • the amount of energy - presented in kilocalories and kilojoules - fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar. This will be presented as Reference Intakes (RI) - formerly known as Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) - and will show how much of the maximum daily intake a portion accounts for
  • a consistently determined red, amber or green colour-coding system (note the basis of this is per 100g not per portion except where the amount in a portion exceeds 30% of the RI)

Cost benefit studies have demonstrated that front of pack labelling could be both an effective and cost saving intervention against obesity. Evidence tells us that a combined scheme of colour-coding and nutritional information is preferred by consumers and is the labelling system that consumers can most easily use to choose healthier foods.

In spring 2012, we held a consultation on which front of pack scheme should be used. The consultation was an open one, which sought all views, not just from the food industry. In October 2012, we announced our preferred system and have since worked with food industry, health and consumer charities to agree a consistent system.

Companies signed up:

  • Adelie Foods Group
  • Aldi Stores Ltd
  • Asda Stores Ltd
  • Bernard Matthews
  • Boots
  • Britvic
  • The Co-operative
  • Hain Daniels Group (New Covent Garden Soup)
  • Iceland Foods
  • Lidl UK
  • Lockwoods (Mushy Peas)
  • Marks and Spencer
  • Mash Direct
  • McCain Foods
  • Morrisons Ltd
  • Moy Park (Poultry)
  • Nestlé UK*
  • Ocado
  • PepsiCo UK
  • Premier Foods
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Tesco Food Stores Ltd
  • URBAN eat
  • Waitrose Ltd
  • Young’s Seafood Limited

*Adoption of the scheme covers all Nestlé fully owned businesses in the UK, including:

  • Nestlé Confectionery (all multipacks, sharing bags and chocolate blocks)
  • beverages (Nescafé Coffee Mixes, Nesquik, Aero Hot Choc and Coffee-mate)
  • food (Carnation Milks, Maggi retail, Herta);
  • Nestlé Professional (beverages (not including vending), soups, sauces and bouillons and relevant food products including Maggi and Herta products)
  • licensees (cakes, cookies and ice creams will move to the hybrid where 5 GDA icons are currently applied)
  • Nestlé Nutrition UK, Nestlé Health Science, Nestlé Waters mostly out of scope and under different regulatory requirements

Public Health Responsibility Deal

The Public Health Responsibility Deal aims to tap into the potential for businesses and other influential organisations to make a significant contribution to improving public health by helping us to create this environment.

Since launching in 2011, the Responsibility Deal has worked with industry to achieve the following:

  • over 70% of the fast food and takeaway meals sold will have calories clearly labelled - almost 9,000 high street outlets by this year - with more companies signing up
  • all of the major supermarkets have committed to removing artificial trans fats
  • all of the major supermarkets and over half of the major high street and contract caterers are committed to further reductions in salt in over 80 categories of foods - such as bread, soups, cereals and pasta sauces
  • over 80% of all alcoholic drinks on shelf will have clear labelling on units, NHS guidelines and pregnancy messages by the end of next year - with 92 companies signed up. (Early indications are that over 60% of labels already carry this information).
  • 31 leading food and drink companies, including Coca-cola, Mondelez International (formerly Kraft Foods UK), Nestle, Subway and all the major retailers have signed up to the calorie reduction pledge — making some strong commitments to cut and cap calories, as well as through promotional activity encouraging people to eat healthier foods
  • 34 major alcohol companies have committed to removing a billion units from sale. The initiative, which includes major brands like Echo Falls, First Cape and Heineken will see a greater choice of lower strength alcohol products and smaller measures by 2015.
Published 19 June 2013