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The science of nutrition and healthy eating
The science of nutrition and healthy eating

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6 Traffic-light system

You will notice in Figure 8 that the nutrient values are coloured red, amber or green, depending on whether the value is high, medium or low. Table 2 shows the values for each colour per 100 g of food product. These values are based on the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). You can find out more using this link (, 2018b) [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Image is of a few cans of food that use the traffic light system on their nutrition labels.
Figure 8 Examples of how traffic-light colours are used on food packaging
Table 2 Low, medium and high values per 100 g in Figure 8
SubstanceGreen (low)Amber (medium)Red (high)
Fatless than 3 gbetween 3 g and 17.5 gmore than 17.5 g
Saturated fatsless than 1.5 gbetween 1.5 g and 5 gmore than 5 g
Sugarless than 5 gbetween 5 g and 22.5 gmore than 22.5 g
Saltless than 0.3 gbetween 0.3 g and 1.5 gmore than 1.5 g

The limits for 100 ml of drinks are half those given for 100 g of food – except for the salt value, which is unchanged.

The advantage of this way of presenting the data is that shoppers can see at a glance which are ‘healthier’ foods, without having to check the percentages. Manufacturers were originally concerned that shoppers might stop buying foods that were classed as red. Some were reluctant to adopt the traffic-light system. However, it has now been adopted by many.