/ Food & Drink, Health

How light is your lunch? You might be surprised…

How healthy is your sandwich? We’ve found the answer could depend on where you shop. We want to take your views to the government so it can encourage shops to be clearer about what’s in our food.

Whether your favourite sarnie is a BLT, a chicken salad or something completely different you may be able to get a healthier version of your preferred lunchtime snack if you shop around.

Research we released today found you could be eating three times as much fat and double the amount of salt as you’d have in the same sandwich bought elsewhere.

So how do you know what you’re eating? Well that’s just it – unless all the places where you buy your sandwiches use the same traffic light labelling scheme it could be very difficult to tell.

Double the fat for the same sandwich?

Although I’m a vegetarian, I was shocked to find out that Morrisons chicken salad sandwich contains almost double the amount of fat (11.7g) than the same sandwich from Waitrose (6.0g).

Waitrose uses traffic lights but Morrisons doesn’t, so how could you tell that the Morrisons sandwich is the less healthy option? It would take quite a bit of planning, calculating and note writing to work it out. As much as I always prefer to go for the healthy option, I just don’t have the spare time for that.

We’ve discussed the use of traffic light labels before on Which? Convo. Andy told us that:

‘I religiously now examine saturated fat and salt content but would love a traffic light system so I wouldnt waste time examining the labels of foods with big red blobs on them.’

Stevie B pointed out that colour-coded things would be easier for those who have problems reading the very small print:

‘The traffic light method is good for me, as reading small print is tough without glasses these days. Easy to read labels allows a more informed choice and the easier the better for me.’

Help us lobby for better labelling

image of traffic light labelling for food

At Which? we’d like to see clear, consistent labelling right on the front of food packaging.

Do you think a system of traffic lights, like the one on the left, would help you make healthier choices?

The Department of Health wants to know – it released a consultation on Monday to help decide on the best scheme. We’ll be responding and would like to include your views as well – it’s important that consumers have their say on food labelling.

  • Would a traffic light scheme that was the same across all packaging help you make healthier choices?
  • What products would you like to see traffic lights on?
  • Would you find it useful to see ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’ on the traffic lights as well as the colours?

We’ll be talking to the Department of Health so that it can take your feedback on board. Together we can help the government work out how food labelling can work best for those buying the sandwiches.

Comments
Member

From the Food Standards Agency website:
General food labelling policy in England has transferred from the Food Standards Agency to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). In England, the Agency still has responsibility for food safety-related labelling issues (for example allergen labelling and ‘use by’ dates), while nutrition labelling is the responsibility of the Department of Health, and Defra is responsible for all other labelling policy.

The Agency is still responsible for all labelling and standards policy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Perhaps the FSA and Defra should get together and sort out one system that we can all understand and make good use of, taking into account the fact that food prepared on the premises can vary in composition and amount, and that some of the population are colour blind and find colour coding difficult to interpret.

If our quangos can’t cope with this exercise then perhaps a class of intelligent schoolkids could manage to do a good job.

Member

Hi Wavechange – thanks for this. The traffic light labelling issue currently sits with the Department of Health and they launched a consultation on Monday (http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/05/food-labelling-consultation-launched/).

Like you, we want the Department of Health to come up with a single system and we want that system to be traffic lights as it has been proven to work through independent research and some companies are already using it. We want them to follow the leaders!

Feel free to respond to the consultation as it is open to anyone. The more people they hear from the better!

Member

Thanks for the reminder about the consultation, Rachel.

I used to be happy with the Tesco system but I now see the reasons for what Which? is promoting.

Member
Malc.Moore says:
18 May 2012

I dont know about sandwiches perhaps they are better in Aldi or Lidl?.Aldi&Lidl beat ASDA regarding amout of fish per portion Frozern.If i was buying a Chicken of Beef Sandwich id want to know the percentage of Chicken or Beef in it Clearly labeled on the Front of the Product not in microlabelling at the back its outragous food manufacters are allowed to get away with this. Labelling food needs to be
Clear and put an end to micro Labelling is a must.

Member
Paddy Murphy says:
18 May 2012

I never buy sandwiches from supermarkets or petrol stations because the selection of the white bread variety is so poor. Brown bread tastes like minced cardboard and often gives me indigestion

Member
Eileen says:
19 May 2012

Which please campaign for traffic lights on food packaging as it’s clearer to see straight away if one did not bring their reading glasses .

Member
Eileen says:
19 May 2012

Food that contain PALM oil should not be marked as vegetable oil.Palm oil is full of saturates whereas rape seed oil does not.I will never buy anything with Palm oil but I suspect sometimes it comes under the disguise of vegetable oil.Palm oil not only contains full of saturates but palm oil has destroyed the rain forest and the orang utans.I think Marks and Spencer s own food does not contain palm oil but not 100% sure.

Member
Malc.Moore says:
19 May 2012

I agree Eileen i aways try to read the Percentage of fats with very small Labeling one almost needs a microscope to read it never mind Reading glasses hence i call it Microscopic Labeling its so small i expect most just have a glance cannot read it then either buy it or put it back.Yesterday i dicovered Aldi sell Frozern Fish Athough a smaller weight Cod/Haddock containing 87% Fish as i dont use Marks&spencer i cannot compare but it Certainly beats ASDA only offering Youngs miserly 50%.I wonder just how many would buy that brand if they actually knew they were getting only half a packet of fish.I suspect many would walk away and not buy it.The public are conned by glossy photopackaging.If manufacturers spent less on the packages they could afford to increase the percentage of Fish in the product.This applies to all foods not just fish if iwas buying a sandwich id want to know how much Beef/Chicken/Turkey is in it.

Member

If extensive information about the contents is compulsory, you must either make the print smaller or the packaging larger…