Traffic lights app for food labels not credible, says Oz food body

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has criticised a new smartphone app launched by anti-obesity activists who have been pushing for the traffic light system for food labels, saying it does not follow global guidelines.

The Obesity Policy Coalition and activist groups in Australia launched the traffic light labelling smartphone app, called the Traffic Light Food Tracker, on September 5.

Available for both iPhone and Android smartphones, the app lets the user input the values for total fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium and gives an immediate rating of red, amber or green.

However, the AFGC has come out in protest of the food labelling app, stating that it doesn’t follow accepted global guidelines developed by the UK Food Standards Agency.

According to a statement from the agency, the app deviates from the globally accepted UK model for traffic lights as it only shows information for grams/100g of sugar, fat, saturated fat and sodium in packaged foods.

The UK system for traffic light labelling criteria is based on both liquids (mL/100ml) and solids (g/100g).

AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell questioned the research used behind developing the app if they were not based on these international guidelines.

The AFGC gave an example of it testing the app on a full-sugar cola soft drink, where it received an amber traffic light for sugar compared with a red light under the UK model. The cola received green lights for fat, saturated fat and salt.

“By not using the standard international guidelines for traffic lights, they’ve managed to achieve a system where full-sugar cola softdrink would not a get a red light for sugar – so where’s the credibility?”​ Carnell said.

The AFGC reiterated its stand that there was no need or evidence to change Australia’s front-of-pack food labelling system, when the food industry is already under immense pressure.

The food body had recently commissioned a survey, which found that almost 78 per cent were familiar with Daily Intake Guide (DIG) front-of-pack food labels that help formulate a balanced diet.

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