Traffic light label colours, (portion) size matters!

This nice piece in Cosmopolitan shows that buyers are getting more savvy on understanding labels and are beginning to spot when producers may manipulate traffic light colours by choosing to use a non-standard portion size.

We double checked the orange juice information using our labelling calculator, and agree with the conclusions in the article, a serving of the whole bottle contents would give a different traffic light label. There is nothing illegal in this, but producers watch out, the consumer may be on to you!However, this is may not be the all the story, there are many more things to consider in the area of portion size and traffic light colours. So, sticking with the orange juice example here are a few we thought of:

• The manufacturer produces many different volumes of the same drink, they were probably not attempting to be misleading, but saving themselves a lot of bother by just putting the same portion size on all bottle sizes.

• It may, however, be misleading if the consumer is trying to reduce their sugar intake. Without checking portion size, they may assume it is lower in sugar due to the orange traffic light colour. Drinking more than 150ml and they are in the ‘red’.

• As part of a healthy balanced diet, an adult’s reference intakes (“RIs”) for total sugars per day is 90g, a 300ml bottle of the drink is 27g, so the consumer that leaves a nice 63g, pass the chocolate…

• The average portion size of orange juice according to the Food Standards agency is 160ml, so the manufactures estimation is reasonable.

• Don’t always assume red is unhealthy, this is a fruit juice, it has healthy vitamins in it and the sugar is natural.

P.S Since sugar reduction is a very complex issue, we are not attempting to venture into the arena of healthy or unhealthy sugars with this blog, we shall save that for another time.

Further reading:
Original Cosmo article

The Association of UK dieticians has a nice fact sheet on portion sizes

Try our label calculator yourself for free here

FSA portion size book

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