New research shows need for traffic light labelling

% Daily Intake guides confuse consumers looking for healthy choices

New research released by CHOICE today has reinforced calls for governments to implement traffic light labelling on the front of food packaging.

The report commissioned by CHOICE, and conducted by global health research centre, The George Institute, shows the Percentage Daily Intake (%DI) front-of-pack labelling system preferred by mainstream food manufacturers is based on a bewildering range of serving sizes.

The investigation looked at the serving sizes of 1,130 products across six categories: snack foods, breakfast cereals, cereal and nut bars, ready meals, soups and yoghurts. The report found that serving sizes varied widely.

The report found that serving sizes for fruit yoghurts varied from 50g to 500g, muesli from 25g to 80g, potato chips from 19g to 50g and frozen meals from 115g to 450g. 

The report also found that products with %DI labels showed no improvement in serving size consistency over products without %DI labels.

%DI ‘thumbnails’ on the front of packs show percentages of the recommended daily intake of key nutrients based on serving sizes set by manufacturers. However, the people’s watchdog says the inconsistencies in serving sizes makes comparisons difficult.

“The vast differences in serving sizes across like-for-like products make it near impossible for shoppers to compare products and make healthier choices using the %DI system,” says CHOICE spokesperson, Ingrid Just.

The report findings reinforce earlier research conducted by CHOICE with public health groups, and the recommendations of the 2011 Labelling Logic report into food labelling which included the introduction of Traffic Light labelling. Both found %DI labels were not as easy to use as Traffic Light labelling.

“Traffic Light labelling is based on a 100g or 100ml standard. This gives consumers at-a- glance nutritional information based on consistent size comparisons, rather than the %DI system which sees serving sizes set at the whim of manufacturers,” says Ms Just.

CHOICE is calling on governments around Australia to reject the confusing %DI system promoted by industry and implement the Labelling Logic report recommendations when they meet on December 9, 2011.

Read the CHOICE report into %DI guides and the “Examination of serving sizes of selected food products in Australia” report prepared for CHOICE by The George Institute for Health.

Read the fact sheet comparing the %DI and Traffic Light labelling system. 

Media contact:

  • Ingrid Just, CHOICE spokesperson: 0430 172 669

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