Traffic light labels: to help foods show their true colours

traffic light labelling © foodwatch/

The problem

Currently, it is not possible for consumers to recognise at first glance or to compare how much fat, salt or sugar a product contains. The current nutrition labelling system makes it harder to make an informed buying decision. The nutrition facts tables prescribed by law and containing information on fat, salt or carbohydrate levels are hidden in the small print on the back of the food package.

On the front of the package, especially promoted, there are misleading percentages and serving sizes that regularly make the largest sugar bomb look like a balanced snack for in between meals. As such, misleading nutritional values contribute to unhealthy food preferences. More than half of all adults as well as one in five school children in the EU is overweight or even obese. 

What foodwatch is calling for

Nutrition labels must be mandatory on the front of package, clear and comprehensible at first glance. And the information must be comparable. Traffic light labelling would accomplish these goals: in spite of unrealistic serving sizes, it is related to uniform information per 100 grams and signal colours that make the nutrient information on fats, sugars and salt easy to understand. In this case, green stands for a low content, yellow for a medium-sized and red for a high content in the respective nutrient level.

foodwatch demands the obligatory introduction of color-coded front-of-package nutrition labels for foods and drinks. Therefore, the European food information regulation has to be revised. 

The current situation

Scientific studies prove it: color-coded systems are the easiest systems on nutrient information to understand. Medical associations and health insurance companies alike have also expressed their approval as well as patient and consumer organisations. In Germany, a great majority of consumers are demanding traffic light system. However, European politicians have spoken out against the red-amber-green labelling under the massive lobby pressure of the food industry.


Barry wants to lose weight (Traffic Lights. Colour your food.)

Last update March 30, 2017