We asked 7,406 people in our Future of Diabetes survey about what would help them manage their diabetes well. Around three quarters of people who responded (73 per cent) said that if all cafes, restaurants and takeaways used the same food labelling system on the front of food products, it would help them make healthier choices.
In another survey of 2,121 UK adults in the wider public, 9 out of 10 people said traffic-light food labelling helps them make healthier decisions. And only three in ten people (29%) feel they have enough information about what’s in their food.
Clear food labelling is vital for people living with diabetes, to help them manage their condition and reduce their risk of serious complications. And at the moment, clear and consistent food labelling is not compulsory. Companies don’t have to provide any information on the front of their goods, and one in three products in shops don’t have clear traffic-light labels.
Traffic-light labelling assigns a red, amber or green value in relation to fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt, as well as giving information on the calories in a product, to help consumers find out what’s in the food and drink they’re buying.
Independent evidence from the Food Standards Agency shows that the traffic-light system works better than other labels to help shoppers make healthy choices when buying food. Cochrane also published evidence that calorie labelling on menus in restaurants and cafes could help people to reduce the number of calories they consume.
Knowing the carbohydrate content of food is also essential for people with diabetes who make adjustments to their insulin dose by counting their carbs. That’s why, as part of our Food Upfront campaign, we're also calling for carbs to be displayed clearly and consistently on all pre-packaged foods and drinks.
We're calling on the government to commit to introducing the following:
- Calories will be labelled on menus in key high street restaurants, cafes and takeaways, with carb content available online or when you ask for it in store.
- Carbohydrates will be labelled on the back of products, per portion and as prepared.
- Front-of-pack traffic light labelling will be used on all pre-packaged foods sold in the UK.
These steps will help people make better choices at home and while eating out. This is important for everyone to stay healthy, whoever you are. Currently two-thirds of adults in the UK are overweight or obese, which is a significant risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.
The launch of the Food Upfront campaign follows on from new advice issued by Public Health England about the number of calories people should aim to consume per meal, per day. The new guidance states that adults should aim for 400 calories at breakfast, 600 at lunch and 600 at dinner.
Helen Dickens, our Assistant Director of Campaigns and Mobilisation, said:
“People living with diabetes have told us that they want more information about what’s in the food and drink they buy, and effective food labelling will help make it easier for them to manage their condition well, especially when they’re out and about.
“We also know that consistent and clear food labelling can help all of us to make informed and healthy choices. With around two-thirds of adults in the UK classed as overweight or obese, and therefore at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and other chronic health conditions, it’s really important that we have measures in place that help make it easier for all of us to lead healthier lives.
“That’s why we are calling for the government to introduce mandatory traffic-light labelling, and to make it compulsory for restaurants, cafes and takeaways to clearly display the calorie information on their menus. The British public overwhelmingly support this move, so we look to the government today to demonstrate commitment to the health of the nation by implementing these measures.”
Help us make the government listen by signing our petition.