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Traffic-light food label changes

Traffic-light food labels that highlight the fat, sugar and salt content of food now have the backing of the UK government.

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Consumers there can expect to see the new labelling system this year.

Traffic-light labels were recommended for adoption here and in Australia by an independent panel that reviewed labelling rules. Ministers on both sides of the Tasman agreed front-of-pack nutrition labels were needed but shied away from "traffic lights" amidst opposition from the food industry.

Whether any workable alternative emerges remains to be seen. In December 2012, then Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson released a "set of principles" intended to guide the development of a voluntary front-of-pack labelling system here. However, that development is largely being left up to the food industry.

The advisory group charged with fleshing out the principles signalled a preference for any labelling system to be consistent with that eventually adopted in Australia. A "star rating" approach is being floated there: the more stars a food has, the more nutritious it's considered to be.

Meanwhile, UK Public Health Minister Anna Soubry says her government is backing traffic-light labels to help consumers make better decisions about what they buy. The UK labels will also include guideline daily amounts. Several UK supermarkets have already introduced a version of traffic light labels – something supermarkets here haven't been willing to do.