Receipt-based traffic light system could aid in making healthier food choices

The till-based receipt aims to evaluate the nutritional content of a consumer’s entire supermarket trolley. ©Hayden Peek.

Food receipts that use the traffic light system to display nutritional information for multiple items could transform current shopping choices into more health-conscious ones, a UK study thinks.

The idea takes inspiration from current methods used in the UK that display fat, saturated fats, sugar, and salt content in an easy-to-read traffic light rated system.

The new design takes this approach one step further and calculates total calorie, sugar, fat and salt content in a shopping basket, assigning a colour (green, amber or red) to indicate nutritional content per shop.

“Current evidence suggests that whilst consumers generally find the traffic light nutrition labelling useful, there are limitations, particularly when considering a person’s overall nutritional intake,” said lead researcher, Dr Matthew Cole.

“A new receipt-based system could bridge this gap, and provide an additional tool to help aid consumers in their food purchases, providing an overall summary of their entire food purchases.”

Supermarkets need to ‘step up’

Dr Cole, senior lecturer in sport and exercise nutrition at Birmingham City University, is teaming up with London-based creative designer Hayden Peek, who came up with the till receipt concept.

“Of course to have a real impact, Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury's, Co-op, Waitrose, Lidl, Aldi or Marks & Spencer would have to introduce it. The government could make it law,” said Peek.

“I'd certainly like to see one of the major supermarkets step up and introduce a system like this,” he added.

The design is based on survey feedback that found over 50% of subjects surveyed would use a receipt based system to aid in their purchasing decisions.

Current front-of-pack (FOP) traffic light labelling provides nutritional information on a product-by-product basis.

Research into the project shows that more than 83% of people currently use traffic light information to assist them in making their food purchases.

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