Co-operative Food research champions traffic lights and front-of-pack labelling

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Co-operative Food's  front of pack label

Co-operative Food’s front of pack label

The Co-operative Food has released new research to highlight the merits of traffic light labelling to coincide with the launch of the Department of Health’s new front-of-pack labelling scheme today.

The survey, into how people use front-of-pack labelling, found 70% of women and 48% of men look at food labels. Fifty five per cent of women check traffic lights and 76% examine product ingredients before they buy. Forty per cent of women (30% of men) say a red traffic light has stopped them buying a product that’s high in fat, salt or sugar, researchers found.

The study of 2,000 British adults also revealed women blame men for their unhealthy eating habits and weight gain with 29% of women blaming their partner for them putting on weight whilst in their relationship. A third also believe they would be their ideal weight if they were not with their partner.

Despite putting on a few pounds while in a relationship, women are generally more concerned with healthy eating than their partners, however.

Three quarters of respondents believe women are the most obsessed with healthy eating and watching what they eat. And 64% of those surveyed think women take longer to conduct the weekly shop because they take their time and check food labels.

At the same time, both women and men agree that men are more likely to reach for frozen pizzas, chips or pasties for an evening meal.

Janet Taylor, diet and health manager for The Co-operative Food, said: “It’s clear to see women are the healthier half in relationships, but even though they watch what they eat, diligently check food labels, count calories and are more overly concerned with eating well, they still blame men for buying unhealthy snacks that they cannot resist – leading to putting on the odd pound.

“It’s interesting to see 41% of women and 30% of men would leave a product on the shelf if it had a red traffic light – proving that this easy-to-check scheme really works for shoppers.

“Foods with red traffic lights, which may contain higher levels of fat, salt or sugar, are fine to eat in moderation, as a weekend treat or indulgent dinner. A balanced approach to healthy eating is the best way forward, and having plenty of healthier snacks around, such as fruit, seeds, rice cakes and vegetable crudités, is a great way to stop you from reaching for the biscuit tin as you watch TV.”

The Co-operative was the first retailer to use front-of-pack nutrition labelling back in 1995, adopted the traffic light scheme in 2006, and have been using a hybrid labelling scheme, combining both traffic light labelling and Guideline Daily Amount information, for two years. Shoppers can see at a glance whether a product has a high, medium or low amount of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt and how it contributes to their recommended daily intake. 

Taylor added: “We believe the new consistent labelling scheme will make it easier for shoppers to make healthier choices for themselves and their families. However, for this to succeed, it’s essential that the food industry as a whole, including manufacturers, adopts this approach.”