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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 April, 2005, 07:37 GMT 08:37 UK
Tesco rejects traffic light label
Traffic light label
The traffic lights aim to simply salt, fat and sugar information
Tesco, the UK's biggest supermarket, is turning its back on traffic-light food labels which indicate sugar, salt and fat in products, it has announced.

The government-backed scheme has been widely resisted by the food industry, despite research suggesting shoppers would welcome the system.

The Food Standards Agency believes the labels would make it easier for shoppers to understand labels.

But Tesco says it is opting for an alternative "signposting" system.

Amber 'confusion'

The supermarket said the decision followed its own pilot scheme, using the traffic light system which showed customers were confused about how to treat an amber light.

It will put the content of salt, sugar, saturated fat and calories in grams and how this relates to the recommended daily intake on its own label products.

EU laws mean nearly all ingredients must be listed
Until 2004, ingredients making less than 25% of product did not need to be on the label
'British' cannot be used to market a product
Only beef and some fruit and vegetables can carry country of origin markings

With obesity rising and confusing food labelling, the government is keen shoppers should know just what is in food.

The Food Standards Agency is looking at a number of routes. One is the "traffic light" approach using a simple green, meaning eat plenty; amber, in moderation and red, eat sparingly.

It was proposed in the Public Health White Paper in November 2004 and ministers had wanted to introduce the food alerts by 2006.

The Food and Drink Federation, which represents the industry, has just issued guidance for shoppers on how to interpret food labels.

But the pressure group, the Food Commission, insists consumers need one clear system and the traffic light scheme is the best option so far.

The National Heart Forum said it was concerns about Tesco's decision.

Jane Landon, associate director of the charity, said the numbers-based system chosen by Tesco had already been shown by the Food Standards Agency to be least popular with consumers.

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