May 13, 2016, by Richard Hyde

Lights, Labels, Action

How easy is it to read a label? Food Detectives, on BBC2 on 13th May 2016 at 7.30pm, attempts to answer this question. It turns out that the answer is “not very easy.” On a cold November morning I met Sean Fletcher and a BBC crew outside the Nottingham Playhouse. My role involved setting challenges to members of the public, seeing whether they could read the information on the labels of food and decipher which of the food products had the most or least of a particular nutrient.

Traffic light labels, which are not mandatory but are becoming more common, formed the focus of the “games.” Could the participant work out which of the products had the least fat within the 10 second that most people spend looking at food on the supermarket shelf? It turns out that it is difficult. With labels basing the numbers that appear in the traffic lights on different portion sizes, nimble mental arithmetic was required to successfully answer the questions that I asked. However, the participants improved as they discovered the technique of reading the label. What are those tricks? Tune in and find out, but trust the colours on the traffic lights, as these do not change with portion sizes.

After a long day of filming, I think we all went home satisfied and, hopefully, enlightened. I can’t wait to see how it looks on TV.

Posted in Food