Sanitarium proves industry can 'green light' traffic labels

5 Apr 2011

A proposed front of pack traffic light labelling system launched by Sanitarium today is a big step forward in terms of helping consumers’ make informed decisions about the food they purchase, according to the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC).

Jane Martin, senior policy adviser for the OPC, said the ‘Healthy Eating System’, which is based on multiple traffic light labels, was a welcome advance by a manufacturer in light of considerable resistance from the broader industry towards improved front of pack labelling.

“With obesity at record levels and only projected to increase, the food industry can and should play an active role in improving public health by firstly arming consumers with information to make the healthier choices, the easier choices.

“At present, it is very difficult for consumers to sort the fat from the fiction; the Daily Intake Guide (DIG) system favoured by many food manufacturers is not well understood and doesn’t enable consumers to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy foods,” she said.

Sanitarium’s research found that 45% of households do not use the DIG system at all and that awareness of the system was much lower in men and people with lower levels of education. Only 54% of respondents were able to correctly identify the healthiest food using the DIG system, compared with 90% using the Healthy Eating System and 86% with straight traffic light labels.

Ms Martin said traffic light labelling was recommended by the Federal Government’s Labelling Logic review.

"The review recommended that traffic light labels be introduced on a voluntary basis, so it is very encouraging to see companies such as Sanitarium tackling the challenge head-on. We encourage all manufacturers to follow Sanitarium’s lead and help improve the health of Australians," said Ms Martin.

"If all manufacturers got on board it would be a major win for Australians who are consuming more and more processed foods at the expense of fruit and vegetables," said Ms Martin.

Recent Cancer Council Victoria research indicates that 87% of Australian consumers are in favour of traffic light labelling on food packaging.

About the Obesity Policy Coalition

The Obesity Policy Coalition is a group of leading public health agencies who are concerned about the escalating levels of overweight and obesity, particularly in children.

The Obesity Policy Coalition partners include Diabetes Australia - Vic, Cancer Council Victoria, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University.

The Obesity Policy Coalition supports such policies as:

  • Restrictions on junk food marketing
  • Improved labelling on packaged food, including traffic light labelling
  • Tax and pricing strategies to support healthy eating

Contact: Rebecca Cook 0438 316 435 / 9635 5207

See Sanitarium's report on front-of-pack labelling here