Traffic light labelling could prevent mortality from noncommunicable diseases in Canada: A scenario modelling study.
Labonté M-E., Emrich TE., Scarborough P., Rayner M., L'Abbé MR.
BACKGROUND: Traffic-light labelling (TLL) is a promising front-of-pack system to help consumers make informed dietary choices. It has been shown that adopting TLL in Canada, through an optimistic scenario of avoiding, if possible, foods with red traffic lights, could effectively reduce Canadians' intakes of energy, total fat, saturated fat, and sodium by 5%, 13%, 14% and 6%, respectively. However, the potential health impact of adopting TLL has not been determined in the North American context. OBJECTIVE: This study modelled the potential impact of adopting TLL on mortality from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in Canada, due to the previously predicted improved nutrient intakes. METHODS: Investigators used data from adults (n = 19,915) in the 2004 nationally representative Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS)-Cycle 2.2. Nutrient amounts in foods consumed by CCHS respondents were profiled using the 2013 United Kingdom's TLL criteria. Whenever possible, foods assigned at least one red light (non-compliant foods) were replaced with similar, but compliant, foods identified from a Canadian brand-specific food database. Respondents' nutrient intakes were calculated under the original CCHS scenario and the counterfactual TLL scenario, and entered in the Preventable Risk Integrated ModEl (PRIME) to estimate the health impact of adopting TLL. The primary outcome was the number of deaths attributable to diet-related NCDs that could be averted or delayed based on the TLL scenario compared with the baseline scenario. RESULTS: PRIME estimated that 11,715 deaths (95% CI 10,500-12,865) per year due to diet-related NCDs, among which 72% are specifically related to cardiovascular diseases, could be prevented if Canadians avoided foods labelled with red traffic lights. The reduction in energy intakes would by itself save 10,490 deaths (9,312-11,592; 90%). CONCLUSIONS: This study, although depicting an idealistic scenario, suggests that TLL (if used to avoid red lights when possible) could be an effective population-wide intervention to improve NCD outcomes in Canada.