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The following section is reproduced from a government food guidelines PDF at:
For further information, please download this in full.

2. The Colour Code

2.1 Nutritional criteria

The traffic light colour approach to nutritional signpost labelling requires criteria that define the green/amber (low/medium) and amber/red (medium/high) boundaries for the key nutrients (fat, saturated fat, salt and sugars). The criteria are set out in Table 1.

Table 1 - Food (per 100g whether or not they are sold by volume)

  Green (Low) Amber (Medium) Red (High)

<= 3.0 g/100g

> 3.0 to 20.0 g/100g > 20.0 g/100g > 21.0g / portion
Saturates <= 1.5 g/100g > 1.5 to 5.0 g/100g > 5.0 g/100g > 6.0g / portion
Total Sugars <= 5.0 g/100g > 5.0 to 15.0 g/100g > 15.0 g/100g (3) > 18.0g / portion (3)
Salt (4) <= 0.30 g/100g > 0.30 to 1.50g/100g > 1.50 g/100g > 2.40g / portion (5)
  • (3) The Agency has asked SACN to review and advise on intakes of sugars as part of its future work programme.
  • (4) Sodium from all sources expressed as salt.
  • (5) To be reviewed in 2008 to reflect progress on salt reduction work.

For foods where the per portion criteria apply, the nutrient must be labelled red (high) regardless of its per 100g profile if the per portion criteria are met. From 2008 the per portion criteria will apply to all foods with a serving size of greater than 100g. In the intervening period, we suggest that the per portion criteria be used if the serving size is 250g or greater, but companies may wish to adopt a phased approach for using the per portion criteria to foods with a serving size of between 100g and 250g.

The colour code should be based on nutritional information for foods ‘as purchased’ with the following exceptions:

  • Dried foods which should be assessed ‘as reconstituted’, for example dried noodle meals.
  • Where all the nutritional labelling on pack, including group 2 nutritional labelling, is provided as consumed, then the colour code for front of pack labelling can also be assessed on an ‘as consumed’ basis provided this is clearly stated.

Whilst the Agency is not recommending nutritional signpost labelling on drinks, the criteria in Table 2 should be followed if manufacturers of drinks choose to apply signpost labelling to their products.

Table 2 - Drinks (per 100ml)

  Green (Low) Amber (Medium) Red (High)

<= 1.5 g/100ml

> 1.5 to <=10.0 g/100ml > 10.0g/100ml
Saturates <= 0.75 g/100ml > 0.75 to <=2.5 g/100ml > 2.5g/100ml
Total Sugars <= 2.5 g/100ml > 2.5 to <=7.5 g/100ml > 7.5 g/100ml
Salt (4) <= 0.3 g/100ml > 0.30 to <=1.50g/100ml > 1.50 g/100ml
  • (4) Sodium from all sources expressed as salt.

The criteria will be reviewed in 2008.

2.2 How to apply the nutritional criteria

The appropriate traffic light colour for the signpost for any food is determined by following the 3 steps outlined below:

Step 1: Use the criteria in Table 1 for foods and Table 2 for drinks.

Step 2: Determine the colour code for each nutrient based on per 100g or per 100ml of the product.

Step 3: Check the portion size of the product as specified on the packaging. If the portion size is greater than or equal to 250g, then the alternative red (high) per portion criteria outlined in Table 1 applies. If any nutrient meets this red (high) per portion criteria it must be labelled red (high), regardless of its per 100g profile.

Where a selection of products is packaged together, for example a “take-away pack”, then an average value of all the products should be used.

To help ensure the criteria are applied correctly some worked examples are attached at Appendix 2 which illustrate how to arrive at the correct colour coding for each nutrient.

2.3 How the nutritional criteria were developed

The green/amber boundaries are determined by the new EU legislation on Nutrition and Health Claims.

The amber/red (medium/high) boundaries are based on existing advice from COMA and SACN for fat, saturated fat and salt using 25% of recommended intake levels per 100g and 30% (40% for salt) per portion. The amber/red boundaries for fat, saturated fat and salt were agreed at the Agency’s March 2006 Board meeting.

Setting the amber/red (medium/high) boundary for sugars is a complex task since nutrition information, for practical reasons, is given for total sugars but neither COMA nor SACN has provided advice on intakes of total sugars. An independent sugar review group was therefore set up to recommend an appropriate boundary based on

total sugars. It noted the COMA advice on recommended intakes of non-milk extrinsic sugars (NMES, i.e. added sugars including extrinsic fruit sugars such as in fruit juice) and took this into account when developing the amber/red boundary for sugars. The criteria developed use COMA’s advice on NMES as the basis for the approach and include an adjustment based on the levels of fruit and milk sugars likely to be present in processed foods. For sugars, the per 100g amber/red boundary is set at 25% of the 50g DRV for NMES plus 2.5g to take account of intrinsic sugars. The per portion boundary is set at 30% of the DRV for NMES plus 3g to take account of intrinsic sugars. These criteria apply to total sugars.

It should be noted that neither the Agency nor the sugar review group has made any comment on the suitability or otherwise of any of the IGD GDA values, including total sugars.

Because of the complexity of this issue, and the range of different views, consumer research is to be carried out as described in section 1, and SACN advice will be sought on sugars intakes. These, and other criteria, will be reviewed in 2008 taking account of further information available at this time.

2.4 Additional notes on sugars labelling aspects

The EU regulation on Nutrition and Health Claims defines sugars in accordance with the definition set out in the EU Directive 90/496/EEC on nutrition labelling of foodstuffs (i.e. all monosaccharides and disaccharides present in food, but excludes polyols).

The regulation also states that claims indicating that “sugars have not been added” may only be used where the product does not contain any added mono- or disaccharides or any other food used for its sweetening properties. However where sugars are naturally present in the food it advises that the following indication should appear on the label “contains naturally occurring sugars”.

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Healthy Eating

The recommended daily allowances (often abbreviated to RDA on labels) of a particular nutrient were first devised in the 1970s.Today nutritionists talk about dietary reference values.These are only a guideline,since not one of us,thankfully, is a standardised unit:sex,age,height,weight,fitness and medical conditions will all influence the calculation for the optimum amount of any nutrient.Even a rough guide,however,is helpful when you are trying to eat and drink healthily.Many manufacturers don’t give the help they should,with high levels of sugars,salt and saturated fat disguised under vaguer umbrella terms.If you want to live healthily, it’s up to you to take control,and see past those deceptive marketing techniques.

The government website is excellent.It is easy to use and has all the latest nutritional information.Also useful is, the website of the European Food Information Council.Based in Brussels,its aim is to improve public understanding of nutrition and food safety. Guidelines for alcohol consumption were first introduced in the 1980s and related to drinks that were served in a pub (one unit equalled half a pint beer,lager or cider,one single measure of spirits,one small glass of wine,one small measure of e.g. port or sherry).However,today many drinks have increased in fortified wine, alcohol content,especially wine,cider and bottled beer.Therefore the only sure way to check your units of alcohol is to use the formula on page 10.

Current guidelines for a healthy diet:
  • Eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Reduce salt intake to 6g a day

When the salt content is high it will often be labelled as “sodium”per tiny portion rather than for the whole packet.You have to multiply the sodium level by 2.5 to find the salt level (1g salt = 0.4g sodium;6g salt = 2.4g sodium)).

  • Women consume a total of 70g of fat per day and men 95g

Unsaturated (poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated) fats: these are the good fats that help to lower rather than raise cholesterol,and help to improve your body’s well being.Food examples are:olive oil,vegetable oil,nuts and seeds, oily fish and avocados.

Saturated fats: the upper limit for a man is 30g;for a woman 20g.These are the ones to consume with care.They raise the level of your cholesterol and therefore increase the risk of a heart attack.As with salt (see above),when the saturated fat content is high,too often it is labelled under the umbrella term of “fat”. You may well have to call the customer service number on the packet or even surf the manufacturer’s website for a more detailed breakdown.Food examples are:dairy products,pastries and meats.

Trans fats: These are just as bad for you as saturated fats and should be added together with saturated fat content if the product contains both.Food examples are:chips,fast foods,pastry,biscuits and cakes.

  • Reduce added sugar to 60g a day

The sugar content of a food will often be found by looking for the “Carbohydrate (of which sugars)”figure in the nutrition information panel on the label,or,when only the total carbohydrate figure is given,by looking in the ingredients list.This is where any added sugars are listed,starting with the biggest.A manufacturer may use several types in a product- e.g. sucrose,glucose or glucose syrup- so that the word “sugar”doesn’t appear first on the list.

  • Women need on average 2,000 kcals and men 2,500 kcals per day

Energy is measured in units called calories.Most foods are labelled with their calorie count,but check it against the weight or portion you actually eat rather than a suggested “normal”serving.

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Alcohol Units

Men should consume no more than 4 units per day and women 3.

The formula for working this out for all drinks is: The total millilitres multiplied by percentage of alcohol,divided by 1,000.


  • 500ml bottle of beer at 5% ABV (alcohol by volume),can be worked out as:
    500 x 5 = 2,500 ÷ 1,000 = 2.5 units.
  • 175ml glass of wine at 13% ABV,can be worked out as:
    175 x 13 = 2,275 ÷1,000 = 2.28 units
  • 25ml glass of whisky at 40% ABV,can be worked out as:
    25 x 40 = 1,000 ÷ 1,000 = 1 unit
  • 25ml glass of vodka at 37.5% ABV,can be worked out as:
    25 x 37.5 = 9,375 ÷ 1,000 = .938 units

Weekly guideline:

  • Men 3-4 units per day, 21-28 units per week, no significant risk
  • Men 4-5 units per day, 28-35 units per week, moderate risk
  • Men 5+ units per day, 35+ units per week, high risk
  • Women 2-3 units per day, 14-21 units per week, no significant risk
  • Women 3-5 units per day, 21-35 units per week, moderate risk
  • Women 5 + per day, 35+ units per week, high risk

European wine labelling laws dictate that a wine bottle's alcohol percentage by volume is rounded up or down to the nearest 0.5%, for example, wine labelled Alc.13% can be anywhere between 12.6% - 13.4%. This is why you’ll see on this website and on the bottle’s back label a variation in alcohol units for a wine labelled with the same percentage of alcohol.

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Allergen Labelling

The twelve food ingredients listed below are required by European Law to be listed on the label of all pre-packed food and drink. More information can be found at:

  • Celery
  • Cereals (containing gluten)
  • Crustaceans (shellfish)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Mustard
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Sulphites/Sulphur Dioxide/  (at levels above 10mg per Kg or per Litre)

There are many other known food ingredient allergens, but as yet… they are Not required by European Law to be on the label of pre-packed food and drink. Some are listed below, but more detailed information can be found at:

  • Beans
  • Caraway
  • Chives
  • Coconut
  • Coriander
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Meat
  • Mycoprotein
  • Onions
  • Paprika
  • Rice
  • Saffron
  • Tomatoes
  • Vegetables

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Food Intolerance Advice

The letters G,L,V and N/S in this book are intended to be taken as guide only, and whilst the utmost care has been taken in their research,products are often tweaked and therefore ingredients do change.Moreover,it’s important to check the ingredient list of every packet as they can alter with size and special offers. Anyone excluding a food group from their diet for health reasons must take care e.g. those following a to ensure their nutritional intake is not compromised dairy-free diet must ensure an adequate calcium intake from other sources.


Lactose intolerance is the most common food intolerance in the UK. The best information can be found on the website:

  • Biscuits
  • Breakfast cereals (processed)
  • Butter
  • Cake
  • Cheese
  • Chocolate
  • Cream
  • Creamed soups
  • Ice cream
  • Instant potato
  • Margarine
  • Milk
  • Salad dressings
  • Yogurt


  • Barley
  • Beer and lager
  • (unless labelled gluten free)
  • Biscuits
  • Bran
  • Bread
  • Bulgar wheat
  • Cake
  • Cereal filler
  • Cereal protein
  • Cous cous
  • Liquorice
  • Malt
  • Modified wheat starch
  • Oats
  • Pasta
  • Pastry
  • Rusk
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt wheat
  • Triticale wheat
  • Wheat breakfast cereal
  • Wheat flour
  • Wheat germ
  • Wheat starch

Nuts & Seeds

Products/ingredients to avoid for people with nut (including peanuts;which are legumes not nuts,although people with peanut allergies may also be allergic to tree nuts) and seed allergies or intolerance.Note that some people may be fine with sesame seeds,but may react to one or more of the other seeds.

  • Almonds (also avoid almondessence)
  • Brazils
  • Bread and buns using nuts and seeds
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Frangipane
  • Hazelnuts (also called cob nuts and filberts)
  • Linseeds (often used in breads)
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Marzipan
  • Oils made from nuts
  • Oils made from seeds
  • Peanuts (also called ground nuts,
  • earth nuts and monkey nuts)
  • Pecans
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Poppy seeds (often used in breads)
  • Praline
  • Queensland nuts
  • Sesames Seeds (sometimes found in Aqua Libra)
  • Spreads made using nuts and seeds
  • Walnuts

Unfortunately, such is the sensitivity of some people’s intolerance that a mere trace of a nut or seed can trigger a reaction.Therefore,products without nuts or seeds that have been prepared or produced in a factory that uses them,have the possibility of containing a nut and/or seed trace.Indeed,many of the products sold from a delicatessen counter fall into this category and warnings are now being displayed at many supermarket deli counters.

For further information contact:

Allergy UK
3White Oak Square,Swanley,Kent BR8 7AG
Helpline Tel:01322 619 898 (9.00am-9.00pm Monday- Friday);

Coeliac UK
P O Box 220,High Wycombe,Buckinghamshire HP11 2HY
Tel:01494 437 278

The Anaphylaxis Campaign
P O Box 275,Farnborough,Hampshire GU14 6XS
Tel:01252 542 029

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E Numbers

All food additives (listed as E Numbers) permitted and used in the UK are passed as safe for human consumption.However,some are known to be harmful and should be avoided by people with food intolerance or where they contravene the consumer’s ethical,religious or special dietary requirements.The side effects listed below,such as hyperactivity in children,only occur in a small number of cases. Many of the colours below are banned in Norway and the USA.

Click to jump to: Colours | Preservatives | Vegetable Gums, Emulsifiers & Stabilisers


E Number - 102
Found in:confectionery,cordials,pickles, soft drinks.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.

E Number - 104
Found in:jam,processed meat,soft drinks.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.

E Number - 107
Name:Yellow 2G
Found in:jam,soft drinks.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.Known
to cause allergic reactions to asthmatics
and people with an aspirin intolerance.

E Number - 110
Names:Sunset Yellow FCF;Orange Yellow S
Found in:cordial,confectionery,packet soup.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.Allergic reactions (rashes,swelling,vomiting).

E Number - 120
Names:Cochineal,Carminic acid;Carmines
Found in:confectionery,liqueurs.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.

E Number - 122
Found in:brown sauce,confectionery, marzipan,jelly,flavoured yogurt.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.
Asthmatics and people with aspirin
sensitivity may have a reaction to it.

E Number - 123
Found in:ice cream,gravy granules,jam, jelly,fruit-pie fillings,soup.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.People
with aspirin sensitivity may react to it.

E Number - 124
Names:Brilliant scarlet 4R;Ponceau 4R;
Cochineal Red A
Found in:salami,seafood dressing,jelly, fruit pie fillings,soup.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.
Asthmatics and people with aspirin
sensitivity mayhave a reaction to it.

E Number - 127
Found in:custard powder,biscuits,glacé cherries,canned cherries and strawberries.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.
Can cause sensitivity to light.

E Number - 128
Name:Red 2G
Found in:cooked meats,sausages,jam.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.

E Number - 129
Name:Allurared AC
Found in:biscuits,cake mixes.
Problems:May be an allergen to people
with sensitiveskin and asthmatics.

E Number - 131
Name:Patent blue V
Found in:Scotcheggs.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.
Maybe an allergen to people with
sensitive skin.Low blood-pressure,
breathing problems.

E Number - 132
Names:Indigotine,Indigo carmine
Found in:biscuits,confectionery.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.May be an allergen to people with sensitive skin and high blood-pressure.

E Number - 133
Names:Brilliant Blue FCF,FD&C Blue 1
Found in:tinned processed peas.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.

E Number - 142
Name:Green S
Found in:gravy granules,ice cream,mint sauce,sweets,tinned peas.
Problems:Should be avoided if you suffer
from food-colour intolerance.

E Numbers - 150a, 150b, 150c, 150d
Names:Plain caramel,Caustic sulphite caramel,Ammonia caramel.
Found in:soy sauce,beer,whisky,dark rum, colas,sauces,gravy powder,chocolate.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.

E Number - 151
Names:Brilliant Black BN,Black PN
Found in:soft drinks,sauces,red-fruit jam, ice creams,flavoured milk.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.

E Number - 154
Name:Brown FK
Found in:smoked kippers,smoked el,ham,crisps. Problems:Hyperactivity in children.

E Number - 155
Name:Brown HT
Found in:chocolate cake.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.

E Number - 160B
Found in:cheese,custard,fish fingers.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.Annatto maycause allergic reactions.

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E Number - 210
Name:Benzoic acid
Found in:fruit juice,cordial,salad cream, pickles,jam.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.
May cause allergic skin reactions
or gastric irritation.

E Numbers - 211, 212, 213, 214
Names:Sodium benzoate,Potassium benzoate,Calcium benzoate,Ethyl4- hydroxybenzoate
Found in:fruit juice,cordial,salad cream, pickles,jam.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.
May be an allergen to people with sensitive skin and asthmatics.

E Numbers - 220, 221 222, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228
Names:Sulphur dioxide and its salts, Sodium sulphite,Sodium bisulsulphite, Sodium metabisulphite,Potassium Metabisulphite,Potassium sulphite, Calcium sulphite,Calcium hydrogen Sulphite,Potassium bisulphite.
Found in:fruit juice,cordials,beer, wine,vinegar,dried fruit.
Problems:Hyperactivity in children.
May be an allergen to asthmatics.

E Number - 235
Found in:meat,cheese.
diarrhoea and skin irritation.

E Numbers - 249, 252
Names:Potassium nitrite/nitrate
Found in:meat.
difficult breathing.

E Numbers - 250, 251
Name:Sodium nitrite/nitrate
Found in:meat.
Group recommends to avoid them.

E Numbers - 281, 282, 283
Names:Sodium propionate,Calcium
propionate,Potassium propionate
Found in:flour products.
Problems:Can trigger migraines.

E Numbers - 310, 311, 312,
Names:Propyl gallate,Octyl gallate,
Dodecyl gallate
Found in:margarine,fats,oils.
Problems:gastric or skin irritation.

E Numbers - 320, 321
Names -Butulated hydroxyanisole,
Butylated hydroxytoluene
Found in:fat,oil,margarine,nuts,instant
potato products.
Problems:Hyperactive Children’s Support
Group recommends to avoid them.

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E Number - 420
Found in:low-calorie foods,dried fruit,
Problems:Can cause gastric disturbance.

E Number - 421
Found in:low-calorie foods.

E Number - 422
Found in: liqueurs,low-calorie foods,dried
Problems:Large quantities can cause thirst, headaches,nausea,high blood sugar.

E Number - 440 (a)
Found in: fruits,olives.
Problems:Large quantities cause flatulence.

E Number - 441
Found in:chilled dairy products,jelly,
confectionery,meat products.
Problems:People that are allergic to Sulphites should avoid it.

E Number - 518
Name:Magnesium Sulphate
Used as:an acidity regulator
and firming agent.
Problems:It is also a laxative.

E Number - 542
Name:Bone phosphate
Used as:an anti-caking agent.
Problems:Not suitable for vegans.

E Numbers - 620, 621, 622, 623, 624, 625
Names:L-Glutamic acid,Monosodium glutamate (MSG),Monopotassium glutamate,Calcium diglutamate, Monoammonium glutamate
Found in:pork pies,cooked and cured meat,sausages,soup,Chinese and Japanese food.
Problems:raging thirst,dizziness,nausea, cold sweats.

E Number - 901
Name:Beeswax - white and yellow
Used as:aglazing agent.
Problems:allergic reactions.

E Number - 904
Name: Shellac
Used as:aglazing agent.
Problems:skin irritation.

E Number - 924
Name: Potassium bromate
Found in:flour products.

E Number - 928
Name: Benzol Peroxide
Used as:a bleaching agent in flour.
Problems:for asthmatics and people with allergies.

E Number - 951
Name: Aspartame
Used as:artificial sweetener in over
5,000 products.
Problems: Memory loss, increases appetite,and may be addictive.

E Number - 966
Found in:breakfast cereals,chewing gum, mustard,sauces,ice cream,jam,jelly,“no added sugar”products.
Problems: Large amounts can cause diarrhoea.

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