Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Front-of-pack 'traffic-light' nutrition labelling has been widely proposed as a tool to improve public health nutrition. This study examined changes to consumer food purchases after the introduction of traffic-light labels with the aim of assessing the impact of the labels on the 'healthiness' of foods purchased. The study examined sales data from a major UK retailer in 2007. We analysed products in two categories ('ready meals' and sandwiches), investigating the percentage change in sales 4 weeks before and after traffic-light labels were introduced, and taking into account seasonality, product promotions and product life-cycle. We investigated whether changes in sales were related to the healthiness of products. All products that were not new and not on promotion immediately before or after the introduction of traffic-light labels were selected for the analysis (n = 6 for ready meals and n = 12 for sandwiches). For the selected ready-meals, sales increased (by 2.4% of category sales) in the 4 weeks after the introduction of traffic-light labels, whereas sales of the selected sandwiches did not change significantly. Critically, there was no association between changes in product sales and the healthiness of the products. This short-term study based on a small number of ready meals and sandwiches found that the introduction of a system of four traffic-light labels had no discernable effect on the relative healthiness of consumer purchases. Further research on the influence of nutrition signposting will be needed before this labelling format can be considered a promising public health intervention.

Original publication




Journal article


Health Promot Int

Publication Date





344 - 352


Fast Foods, Food Labeling, Food Preferences, Health Behavior, Health Promotion, Humans, Nutritive Value, United Kingdom