Published on: July 11, 2006In the UK, The Independent reports on the continuing controversy over food labeling protocols, with some retailers (such as Tesco) resisting a national program that uses a traffic light format that says foods with a green light are good for you and foods with a red light are bad for you.
“Many big industry players, including Tesco and Morrison's, are rejecting the system,” the Independent writes. “Tesco's scheme is based on how much each food contributes to calories, sugar, fat, saturated fat and salt as a percentage to an individual's GDA (Guideline Daily Allowance). The labels have colours but they do not change according to the levels of nutrients.”
Tesco, for example, has argued that orange juice is healthy, but is given a red light because it is high in sugar – a label that in fact can be misleading.
The problem for Tesco and Morrison, though, is that polling suggests that their programs are just confusing to consumers, while the red light/green light program created by the federal Food Standards Agency (FSA) is easy to understand. And the controversy seems to be tougher on Tesco, which is suffering the slings and arrows that come with being the UK’s dominant retailer, subject to criticism for its expansion plans, environmental standards and competitive strategies.
- KC's View:
- The problem, of course, is that the more complicated system advanced by retailers like Tesco and Morrison (and, quite naturally, preferred by many manufacturers) is full of nuance – and nuance is a word that doesn’t have a lot of fans in the world today.
It’s a tough one, though. Retailers that fly in the face of the national traffic light labeling program are going to have to be very persuasive that their systems are better, because the conventional wisdom is for the moment pointing the other way. Conventional wisdom often isn’t very wise but is always conventional…but making the opposite argument can be like pushing boulders uphill in a rainstorm.