Traffic Light Food Labeling System

In the last decades, the rushed lifestyle has caused changes in eating habits, promoting people to eat more processed fast foods increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases among others. Such reality has made people more conscious of a healthy lifestyle although a grand percentage of the population is still unaware and uninformed of the consequences of bad eating habits.

By being aware of this situation, some countries have decided to modify the printed nutritional facts of packed food, providing critical information describing key values on a printed label. This is the case of Ecuador for example, who decided to take charge and make the necessary changes on their packed foods labels, including nutritional facts such as salt, saturated fat and sugar levels to make people more aware about what they consume.

According to the nutritional table, the products are divided into “high”, “medium” or “low” concentration of three components (fat, sugar and salt). The traffic light labeling system information will cover between 15% and 20% of the front of the label (according to the product size) with no health warnings, to be placed in the left superior corner of front panel.

Certain products are excluded from the traffic light labeling system:

  • Small packages with a total surface of less than 19,4cm2;
  • The products that contain insignificant quantity of nutrients (i.e. Coffee);
  • The products that do not contain added critical nutrients (i.e. Milk);
  • Breast milk substitutes and processed complementary foods.


The following information must be included on the labeling:

  • When the product has non-caloric sweetener, it must include “this product contains non caloric sweetener”.
  • Processed food and beverage products that have less than 50% of the natural ingredient in its recipe must include on the label “This product has less than 50% of the natural food ingredient in its recipe”.
  • Products containing genetically modified organisms, must include the words “this product contains GMO”.


Sooner or later, the food industry will have to come to the realization of manufacturing healthier products that will benefit all consumers. This would be seen as an overall improvement in health and lifestyle of the population. Obviously, this will create a challenge in terms of product development and creation to incorporate more beneficial ingredients in packaged foods.

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