traffic labelsThe government has begun a nationwide consultation on the front-of-pack labelling to make choosing healthier food easier for shoppers.

Ministers in the UK want to see all food manufacturers and retailers using the same system to show on the front of food packaging, how much fat, salt, sugar and calories are in their products.

The department of Health estimates that approximately 80% of food products sold in the UK already has some sort of front-of-pack labelling. What seems to be concerning the department of Health is that different retailers and manufacturers are using different labelling systems, which some consumers find confusing.

Some food packaging labels show the Guideline Daily Amount (GDA), which are guidelines about the approximate amount of particular nutrients and calories required for a healthy diet. Meanwhile others will use a traffic light coding system which highlights foods high in fat and sugar, and other products might use both systems.

The UK government argues that if the biggest seven supermarkets all use the same labelling for their own brands, it would equate to about 50% of the food sold in the UK and would also encourage other food manufacturers to follow suit.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Being overweight and having an unhealthy diet can lead to serious illnesses such as cancer and type 2 diabetes. We must do everything we can to help people make healthier choices.

“Offering a single nutrition labelling system makes common sense, it would help us all to make healthier choices and keep track of what we eat. Making even small changes to our diet can have a major impact on our health. Cutting our average salt intake by 1.6 grams a day would prevent over 10,000 premature deaths a year.”

For businesses specialising in the food labelling industry, such as Advanced Labelling Systems (ALS) any changes to the industry are being closely monitored. Food manufacturers will no doubt be doing the same as the changes in law could mean significant changes to the packing of their products.

The consultation will run until Monday the 6th of August.