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How to read food label traffic lights

Article by boka

14th February 2018

Boka health

How to read food label traffic lights

We’ve all seen the red, green and amber ‘traffic light’ labels on the front of food packages. But what exactly do they mean, and how should you use them to decide what to eat?

We all know the feeling – standing in the supermarket, squinting at the back of a food packet, trying to work out what all those columns and numbers mean.

Is 0.9g of salt in a pack of butter too much, or is that normal?

Is a lot of sugar worse or better than a lot of fat?

That amount of saturated fat doesn’t sound too bad …. oh hang on, that’s per 100g, not per packet! Now where’s my calculator?

Frankly, it’s not easy buying food and trying to look after your health these days – there’s either too little information or much too much of it.

That’s why the Government came up with the traffic lights idea…

Why do we have the food label traffic lights system?

The Food Standards Agency introduced the traffic light label system to make it easier for everyone to make healthier food choices.

For most of us, the Nutrition Information on the backs of packets isn’t very helpful. Only giving amounts of salt, sugars, fat, and saturated fat makes it hard to compare products. And stating the percentage of your ‘recommended daily allowances’ can cause anxiety about what else you might be eating during the day.

So the idea of the food traffic lights label system is to show, right on the front of the packet, an at-a-glance guide to the healthiness of the product.

Although the traffic light label designs may look different on different products, you can still compare these foods because the companies are all using the same Food Standards Agency guidelines.

What do the traffic lights mean?

The colour-coded labels show you if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.

RED means HIGH
Indicating that the food is high in fats, sugars or salt. That doesn’t mean you should never eat it – but think about how often you choose it and how much of it you eat, and view it as an occasional treat.

So it’s not too bad, but obviously not as good as green…

GREEN means it’s LOW
Indicating that it’s the healthier choice.

Basically, the more green on the label, the healthier the choice. If you buy a food that has all or mostly green on the label, you know straight away that it’s a better option for your health.


The traffic lights are particularly handy when comparing different food brands such as snack bars and processed convenience foods such as pizzas, ready meals and sandwiches.

Why don’t all foods have traffic light labels?

At the moment, although food packets have to display nutritional information, the traffic lights on the front of packets are voluntary.

So if you don’t see any traffic lights on a snack bar, you may well ask: ‘why have they decided not to show how much sugar is in this product?’

Unfortunately, many products that seem to be healthy are actually not very healthy at all – often loaded with hidden sugar.

The good news is that with Boka you don’t have to worry about any of all that!

Unlike other snack cereal bars, Boka has four green traffic lights. So you know, at a glance, that you’re good to go!

Stock up on your all green light Boka bars here.