Saturday, 3 March 2007

Food Traffic Lights

In a previous post, I talked about food "traffic light" labelling and GDA (guideline daily amounts) labelling. Netmums, a UK parenting site carried out a survey in which 80% of those who responded said they preferred traffic light labelling to the GDA system. More about the survey in this article.

In the traffic light system, foods are labelled red, amber or green. Many of the parents who took part in the Netmums survey said they didn't have the time to work out what the percentage figures used in the GDA meant. During shopping trips accompanied by their children, these parents want to be able to choose what foods to buy based on the traffic light labels.

As a mother of a young child, I can understand this. Shopping for groceries with a young child in tow sure has its challenges, and anything that simplifies the shopping experience is often appreciated by parents.

Still, I wouldn't want to rely on the traffic light labels alone as a yardstick for working out the nutritional content of a particular food item. I'd want to have a bit more knowledge than that about good nutrition. I think the GDA system is complicated for many people and misleading. And I don't think the GDA system is likely to change customer behaviour like Tesco insists it will. Many people just don't have the time or the inclination to decipher the GDA information.

I think the real reason Tesco does not want to use the traffic light system is its fear that people will not buy food items with red labels. But that isn't likely. Just look at the number of people who buy and smoke cigarettes despite the health warning on the packs.

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