I was lucky enough to be in the House of commons yesterday on the day Public Health Minister Ann Soubry launched the food labelling standardised traffic-light system. I was invited to a Parliamentary Reception – Obesity:Actions speak louder than words, hosted by the National Obesity Forum and sponsored by Rt, Hon Kevin Barron MP, Caroline Nokes MP and Andrew George MP.

Our Guest of honour was Anna Soubry MP. Two things really inspired me about the reception. The first, when it comes to public health, the parties all have very similar aims, even though they may look for differing ways to achieve them. Secondly, Anna Soubry’s opening line was ‘I didn’t get into politics to tell people how much salt the put on their chips!’.

This really reflects the core aims for introducing a food labeling scheme, which is about providing information, in a readily useable format, avoiding misleading or confusing the consumer, so they can make informed choices about the food they choose to eat.

Some of the newspapers are reporting that UK obesity plans are being dealt a blow after some of the major food companies Cadbury and Coca-Cola failed to sign up to the scheme. Currently it is a voluntary sign-up scheme with about 60 per cent of products likely to carry the label. I worked for Coca-Cola when it was part of Cadbury Schweppes, so it is no surprise to me that the ‘sweets and treats’ maybe do not not want to publicise their nutritional information. However all the major supermarkets have signed up and maybe when Coca-Cola realise Pepsico have joined and Cadbury realise Nestle and Mars have then hopefully they will join later.

In the meantime obesity and overweight has been identified as a ‘major public health challenge to the UK’ with one in four adults regarded as obese and the numbers are rising. The Forsight report (2007), predicted 60% of the UK population would be overweight by 2050. The cost to the NHS of treating the obesity related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, could be £10 billion per year by 2050 with wider costs reaching as much as £50 billion.

The traffic-light labelling is a step in the right direction to help us make choices about the food we eat so we can maintain a varied, healthy balanced diet. They are not there to say don’t drink coke or eat chocolate!

If anyone would like a credit card side food labeling card to help understand the labelling, please get in touch.