UK traffic labels indicate that orange juice is worse than diet coca-cola

  • November 14, 2012
  • Kate Carey

The new UK traffic light food labelling system has been praised by many as a convenient way to choose healthy food. However, a UK weight loss company, Differ Diets, claims that the system will  be “adding to the country’s spiraling obesity epidemic” because the wrong nutritional values are being used.

“Since when has a packet of pineapple been more damaging that a chocolate bar? Or a fresh piece of steak worse than a microwavable hamburger?” rhetorically pointed out.

The UK traffic light system was officially launched at the end of October 2012, and offers red, yellow and green labels on supermarket foods to “help consumers make healthier choices.”

Differ Diets argues that many products containing unsaturated fats have been incorrectly placed in the red zone, as the body requires unsaturated fat “to function.” The company says examples include nuts and seeds, which appear to have been labelled as “more fattening” than many products containing artificial ingredients.

Further, Differ Diets argue that the system fails to take into account other ingredients in products, and that under the UK traffic light labelling system, an orange juice is considered less healthy than a diet coca-cola.

“A glass of diet coke contains less than a calorie and no sugar whatsoever. However, some of the ingredients include E150d, acesulfame-K and phosphoric acid. Consuming high levels of artificial sweeteners has been linked with severe headaches, addictions and an increased desire for sugary products,” Differ Diets said.

A survey by research company Canadean reported by Australian Food News last month, found that many UK consumers considered the traffic light label scheme “too confusing.”

The UK supermarket group ASDA has also publicly raised concerns that having a red label on a product would “demonise it.”


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4 Responses to “UK traffic labels indicate that orange juice is worse than diet coca-cola”

  1. Sean Alexander on November 14th, 2012 4:14 pm

    When you actually consider the evidence, it sounds quite reasonable that OJ is worse than a diet cola. OJ is high in sugar, diet drinks aren’t. The evidence shows that artificial sweeteners and other food additives are safe to eat (that’s why they go through an approval process). I wonder where Differ Foods got their research from. In any case, high levels of anything will do you harm- if you drink enough water you’ll die.

    It’s time people started getting away from the “if it’s natural that means it’s good for you” fallacy (and the “artificial = bad” fallacy as well). Shark attacks, stillbirth and every toxin (by definition) are all natural. People need to start thinking about their diet as a whole and not demonising individual ingredients.

  2. Dr Rosemary Stanton on November 14th, 2012 4:37 pm

    A traffic light system differentiates between foods with added (extrinsic) sugars and those with intrinsic sugars. Sections of the food industry constantly ignore this distinction. It gets publicity, but doesn’t help anyone. Pure orange juice does not get a red light for sugar. Sugar-sweetened beverages do.

    For the very few foods that appear to earn red lights unfairly, the system can be tweaked appropriately. For example, unsaturated fats can be permitted in larger quantities in otherwise healthy foods such as nuts and seeds.

    As for red lights, when traffic light systems were introduced in school canteens throughout Australia, many food companies came to the party and changed their recipes to reduce added salt, sugar and saturated fats, thus scoring amber lights rather than red.

  3. Nads on November 14th, 2012 5:44 pm

    It sounds like rubbish! The human body requires saturated fats too!
    Eat real food, not food products.
    I’ve never heard of a “packet of pineapple”?

  4. Sean Alexander on November 15th, 2012 9:15 am

    I think it sounds reasonable. OJ is high in energy, diet drinks aren’t. And the evidence shows that artificial sweeteners etc are perfectly fine to consume in moderate amounts, contrary to what seems to be a common misconception. I wonder where Differ Foods got their research from. In any case, linking high amounts of something to a negative effect is often irrelevant. If you drink too much water you can die. As an aside, I love that term “has been linked with”. Birth has been linked with death (actually, it’s a 1:1 correlation) but that doesn’t prove causation.

    Isn’t it time people stopped demonising individual food ingredients (whether natural or artificial) and started looking at their diet as a whole?