New research by the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) suggests that the ‘traffic light’ colour-coded nutritional labelling scheme is frequently misinterpreted, with consumers often taking red labels to mean ‘avoid eating the product’.  

The study also found that only about 18 per cent of EU consumers check the nutritional information of processed foods and that the majority recognised and understood guideline daily amounts (GDAs) and the nutritional information table. The German Food Industry Association, which opposes the traffic light labelling scheme, claims that this research supports the argument that further compulsory food labelling schemes should not be introduced.  

Meanwhile, another survey of 536 consumers in Ireland has found that 45 per cent of consumers never read nutritional information labels on the food they buy and that some confuse the nutritional label with the ingredients list or best before date. Most people (88 per cent of those surveyed) claimed to find the GDAs useful and 75 per cent to find them easy to understand, yet only 32 per cent knew that salt and sodium were different and only 10 per cent understood the difference between energy and calories. The Irish Nutrition and Health Foundation, which conducted the survey, concluded that consumers need to be educated about nutrition and that labels should be larger so that information is quicker and easier to read.