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New shopping card to demystify food labels

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by Cancer Research UK | News

12 June 2006

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Traffic lights, wheels of health and guideline daily amounts – the current range of food labelling systems can be a headache for shoppers trying to make healthy choices.

A new credit card sized guide – produced by Cancer Research UK and Weight Concern and available for free – tells shoppers clearly and simply what is “a little” and what is “a lot” of sugar, fat, fibre and salt.

One side of the card highlights how many grams of sugar, fat, fibre and salt in every 100 grams people should consider as a high or low amount. The other side gives a guide to the amount of fat, sugar and calories to look out for in snacks, breakfast cereals, ready meals and pre-packaged sandwiches to help shoppers make healthier food choices.

It is designed to complement the Ten Top Tips, a scientifically developed programme of simple steps to help maintain a healthy body weight. The tips are straightforward habits that can be incorporated into everyday routines without radical lifestyle change.

The shopping card can be ordered free of charge by visiting www.reducetherisk.org.uk, by emailing or phoning 020 7061 8489. An electronic version of the card is also available to download at the Reduce the Risk website.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: “There’s a confusing variety of food labelling schemes in supermarkets today, with many food retailers and manufacturers offering their own versions.

“Clear and consistent information about what’s in our food is vital if we are going to make healthy choices when we shop. This handy guide is designed to remove confusion and offer basic, easy to understand information. Healthier diets will benefit us all.”

Diet influences the risk of many cancers, including cancers of the bowel, stomach, mouth, foodpipe and breast. A poor diet and little exercise contributes to overweight and obesity levels. Being very overweight increases the risk of cancer of the womb, kidney, colon, gallbladder and foodpipe. It is also linked to breast cancer in women who have gone through the menopause.

A healthy diet reduces the risk of cancer as well as protecting against other conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes, and improves overall health and wellbeing. A healthy, balanced diet is high in fibre, fruit and vegetables, and low in red and processed meat, salt and saturated fat.

Alison Chipperfield, specialist dietitian at Weight Concern, said: “We know that eating high-fat and sugary foods can lead to obesity and an increased risk of cancer. Foods that appear to be healthier choices are not always what they seem, as ‘low fat’ foods can still have a high sugar content. This handy guide will make it easier for shoppers to decipher food labels, compare products and understand what’s in the food they are buying. The credit card design means you can easily carry it around to check food ingredients against Food Standards Agency recommendations whenever you go food shopping.”

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Paul Thorne on 020 7061 8352 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.