Anti-obesity activists launch smartphone app with Traffic Light signals

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 5th September 2011

A new smartphone application with the controversial traffic light system has been launched by the Obesity Policy Coalition, which aims to reduce obesity levels in Australia.

The Obesity Policy Coalition’s new smartphone app gives a Traffic Light rating based on the amount of total fat, saturated fat, sugars and sodium per 100 grams – green for ‘low’, amber for ‘medium’ and red for ‘high’. Because it is merely a smartphone app, its usage remains voluntary.

To use the app, consumers find the nutrition information panel on the back or side of a food product. They then enter the amount of total fat, saturated fat, sugars and sodium per 100 grams and the app provides a Traffic Light rating for each nutrient.

The Obesity Policy Coalition says its new smartphone app demonstrates “how traffic light labelling can help consumers cut through marketing hype and make healthier choices”.

“The idea is to limit the number of red lights in your shopping trolley and replace with products with green lights.”

The Obesity Policy Coalition’s app’s launch coincides with an ongoing dispute between consumer advocacy group CHOICE and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) over the question of mandatory front-of-pack labelling.

Based on its own consumer research, national consumer group CHOICE has been advocating mandatory front-of-pack Traffic Light labelling on food products in Australia. The Traffic Light labelling system was also recommended in an independent review of food-labelling policy led by former federal health minister Neal Blewett, published in January 2011.

However, representatives of the food industry have been saying that Traffic Light systems are too simplistic and that making a Traffic Lights labelling system mandatory will impose huge costs for food companies. The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), has been campaigning for an alternative labelling system known as the Daily Intake Guide (DIG).