The government has announced plans for consistent front-of-pack food labelling, which will include traffic lights and guideline daily amounts (GDAs), to be introduced next year.

The scheme will be voluntary, but ministers are confident it will be widely adopted.

Currently, supermarkets use their own systems, each displaying the information with different visuals, colour and content. The government claims the current approach makes it hard for consumers to compare food.

Under the new proposed scheme, a combination of GDAs, colour coding and “high, medium or low” wording will be used to show how much fat, salt and sugar and how many calories are in each product.

Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said it would be in discussions with the Department of Health following its recommendation.

She said: “The UK has led the way in developing approaches to front-of-pack labelling and FDF members have voluntarily provided this information for many years.

“Per portion % GDA information, which in many cases has been implemented consistently across Europe, helps consumers put the food they eat in the context of their overall diet. Our members are committed to continuing to provide clear nutrition information to consumers and we will be actively engaged in further discussions with the Department of Health following today’s announcement.”

Unveiling the scheme, Anna Soubry, the public health minister, said: “The UK already has the largest number of products with front-of-pack labels in Europe, but research has shown that consumers get confused by the wide variety of labels used. By having a consistent system we will all be able to see at a glance what is in our food. This will help us all choose healthier options and control our calorie intake.

“Obesity and poor diet cost the NHS billions of pounds every year. Making small changes to our diet can have a big impact on our health and could stop us getting serious illnesses – such as heart disease – later in life.”

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