Fatty foods may get ‘skull-and-crossbones’ warnings in obesity battle

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A survey found the labels have encouraged the under 30s and those from the poorest households to buy healthier food.

The food industry, which supports the current traffic-light scheme, is now concerned that facing pressure from the impact of coronavirus and with label changes required by Brexit, it may have to redesign packaging to comply with any new food labelling rules – although the consensus is the hard-hitting approach from Chile would not work.

Kate Halliwell, head of nutrition at the Food and Drink Federation, said: “The Chilean system is based on communicating prohibition, a skull-and-crossbones approach, and I don’t think a ‘stop’ sign on food helps people.

“A label should also recognise the positive aspects of food like our traffic lights and nutrition score, which scores good food such as fibre and protein not just the bad.” 

Vanessa Richardson, food policy adviser at the British Retail Consortium said: “We like traffic lights, it helps make healthy food choices and everyone is familiar with it.

“It would be a massive change to go to a  Chilean-type system where you have a label strongly putting people off certain foods.”

Andrew Kuyk, director general of the Provision Trade Federation, which represents many cheese and bacon producers, is calling for labelling exemptions for foods naturally high in fat or other nutrients.

He said: “It is one thing to identify hidden sugars or fats in products, but most shoppers know butter and cheese is naturally high in fat. The French, for example, have exempted cheese from nutritional labelling because they recognise the absurdity of labelling something that will always score red.”

Consumers, manufacturers and others have 12 weeks to submit their views. 

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