FSA labels would be a fat lot of use
PUBLISHED: 04:00 08 January 2013
Major food giants have announced they will be retaining their current food labelling system in a move which sees them sidestepping the Food Standard Agency's official campaign for "traffic light" labelling.
Manufacturers and retailers aren’t desperately happy with the FSA’s plan to introduce red warning stickers on the kind of foods which make Jamie Oliver shake his head sadly, while looking wistfully at fat children in a school canteen.
Instead of green, amber and red (good, not-so-good and dear-Lord-we’re-going-to-have-to-wash-him-with-a-rag-on-a-stick-because-he-can’t-put-the-crisps-down) labelling, many manufacturers say they will be sticking to the “guideline daily amounts” of salt, sugar and fat that we currently ignore on packaging.
Possibly they’ve read the research carried out which revealed that more than 50pc of the population don’t possess the maths skills to add up percentages and work out when they’ve reached their daily limit of chocolate-coated lard goujons and deep-fried Tizer.
That lot are so dim they probably don’t even know that 50pc means half (does it? I got maths second time round in the first batch of GCSEs so it was literally impossible to fail).
To be fair, I’m not good at maths – although I can tell if someone’s short-changed, over-charged or under-paid me, which is all that really matters – but in fairness, all you need to be able to do is count to 100 in order to work out your daily guidelines when it comes to the fodder you ingest.
My son could do that when he was three; then again he could have spotted (and then ignored) a red label on a packet of crisps before he was one.
A spokesperson for the FSA said: “Our independent consumer research is clear – it’s the use of traffic light colours that best help consumers to make healthier choices.
“Without a traffic light colour code, shoppers can’t always interpret the information quickly and often find percentages difficult to understand.”
A spokesperson for Nestle countered with: “We do not support the traffic lights system because it focuses only on negative aspects of nutrients and does not offer sufficient factual information.”
While Clare Cheney, director general of the Provision Trade Federation, whose members include Dairy Crest and cheesemakers, said: “I think it is very worrying. Virtually all cheese would have a red traffic light for fat and salt. Our members make cheese, yoghurt and butter, all of which are part of a healthy diet.”
Clare, love, they could plaster cheese with skull and crossbones stickers, package it in uranium and exclusively sell it in sewers and I’d still buy it: my love for cheese transcends health, which may very well be the last words I utter before my arteries fill with concrete and I am baked into dust.
And this is the point: in reality, it probably wouldn’t matter if food manufacturers fitted éclairs with a four-minute warning alarm, flares and grenades – no one buys an éclair and leaves the shop happy that they’ve made a nutritionally valid eating decision.
They buy the éclair because it is delicious – curse its long, chocolate-enrobed, cream-filled joyousness – and because if you want an éclair, a kiwi fruit just isn’t going to hit the mark although ironically, it would be easier to hit a mark with a kiwi fruit than it would an éclair (I have been watching too much darts).
If warning stickers worked, no one would smoke: if huge warnings about how a product is going to kill you, slowly and painfully, don’t work, what hope does a coloured sticker the size of a penny have in comparison? None. Not when you’ve got éclairs in the equation which is, incidentally, the only kind of maths I’m interested in.