Packaging Innovation
food labelling activity equivalence
October 26, 2017

Food labelling: traffic light system vs activity equivalence 

How Brexit will eventually affect the British economy, let alone the British packaging industry, is anyone’s guess for now. Ask the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), though, and they’ll tell you all about the activity equivalence labelling system they proposed in 2016. Indeed, Prime Minister Theresa May (in a speech at the Conservative Party conference early 2017) mentioned alternative food labelling as one of the important decisions Britain will soon be able to make on its own.

So long, traffic light labelling?

food labelling activity equivalence The UK was the first EU country to introduce traffic light labelling to the food packaging industry some years ago, but it seems the country may also be the first in the EU to abandon the system in favor of activity equivalence labelling. The RSPH feels the current traffic light system is neither clear nor eye-catching enough to effectively communicate a product’s calorific content, and  instead wants to communicate how much exercise it would take to burn off the calories the product contains. To be more precise, an activity equivalence label would include stick figures carrying out various sports activities, accompanied by a time indication. Senior policy and communications executive for RSPH Matt Keracher explains further: “We need something that’s immediately recognizable that you can just glance at. The whole idea is that there is too much numerical and complicated information on the front and back of food packages. We know that people spend around 6 seconds looking at food before they purchase, and that’s really not enough time to start working out recommended daily intakes and percentages – especially when daily intakes are listed for 100 grammes and the product is 250 grammes.” Do your food labels meet consumers’ changing needs?

Activity equivalence labelling: Taking the Pea

Remarkably enough, while a poll organized by the RSPH found a whopping 63 percent of consumers to be in favor of activity equivalence labelling, only one company (green pea snack company ‘Taking the Pea’) has taken up the alternative labelling system so far. A possible explanation is that it is unclear whether all food industries should use the same type of label, as some foods, like nuts and avocados, can be highly calorific yet still healthy.   Inspired by Packaging Gateway