Sainsbury's to introduce first 'traffic light' labels

Sainsbury's will be the first of the 'big four' supermarkets to launch 'traffic light' healthy-eating labelling in January, defying the Food Standards Agency's calls for a unified approach by retailers and manufacturers.

The FSA unveiled its five options for signposting systems last week.

From January, Sainsbury's will introduce a 'Wheel of health' device onto the packaging of 30 own-label products, including crisps and ready meals.

Traffic light colours will be used to highlight the amounts of fat, saturated fat, added sugar, salt and calories per serving.

Tesco announced last May that it was planning to implement a similar scheme, but has since involved itself with the FSA research, and has subsequently delayed its own scheme's launch.

A Sainsbury's spokeswoman admitted that the chain wanted to start a labelling scheme as soon as possible, although she emphasised it would 'listen to the FSA's recommendation' once it concludes its research.

Observers claimed Sainsbury's' scheme could make things more, rather than less, confusing for shoppers. With the FSA planning tests of five models in supermarkets next spring and the Co-op already running its own scheme, consumers could face seven different initiatives, each with varying criteria.

A Consumers' Association spokesman emphasised the importance of consistency, adding that the food industry 'has a duty to commit to the FSA labelling scheme'.

The FSA has already published for consultation a nutrient-profiling model, which will form the basis for signposting foods by traffic light category.

The model adds points for energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium content, and takes off points for iron, calcium and fruit and vegetable content.

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