Traffic-light food labels on the way to help us eat healthier
TRAFFIC-LIGHT labels are on the way to make it easier for Irish consumers to tell at a glance which foods are healthiest.
Tesco and Lidl are to move to introduce traffic-light labelling in Irish stores following similar moves agreed in the UK in recent days.
The new labels for packaged foods, which have been agreed by all the major UK supermarket chains, will indicate with red, amber and green labels which foods are high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt.
That means consumers will be able to tell easily if a food marked with a red symbol should be avoided, eaten in moderation if it's amber, or freely consumed if it has a green symbol.
Health campaigners in Ireland and Britain have been calling for traffic-light labelling for years in a bid to help time-pressed consumers make healthier choices.
However, the food industry in both countries has been highly resistant, arguing instead for its Guideline Daily Allowance (GDA) labels, which give the percentage of daily intakes contained in a portion and in 100g of the foodstuff.
Critics of this approach have said, however, that it is confusing for shoppers and the portion sizes chosen can be arbitrary and unreflective of how much people actually eat.
Now the UK's Department of Health has come down in favour of a hybrid system which would involve traffic-light labelling on the front of packets and GDAs on the back.
Tesco Ireland said it intends to roll out traffic-light labelling on products sold here, with the the details yet to be worked out.
It is expected to be next year when the new labels are introduced here and in the UK.
Lidl said it would also roll out the new traffic-light labels at its Irish outlets, to be fully implemented by 2014.