New shopping card to demystify food labels

Cancer Research UK

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.

Notes to Editor

Visit the Reduce the Risk website to request the card and a free leaflet containing the Ten Top Tips programme. You will find more information about the Ten Top Tips and further healthy choices that could reduce your risk of cancer.

About the Reduce the Risk campaign

Half of all cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. Cancer Research UK's Reduce the Risk campaign (www.reducetherisk.org.uk) highlights five important ways you can lower your cancer risk:

Stop smoking

This is the best present you will ever give yourself. We know it's hard but support and effective treatments are available to help you quit smoking or chewing tobacco. Give up now and greatly reduce your risk of cancer.

Stay in shape

Cut your cancer risk by keeping a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of several cancers. Try to balance the energy you take in from food with the energy you burn through activity. Just 30 minutes five days a week of moderate exercise such as brisk walking, gardening or swimming will keep you healthy.

Eat and drink healthily

Limit alcohol and maintain a healthy diet to reduce your risk. Alcohol increases your risk of certain cancers, more so if you also smoke. Try to limit the amount you drink. Aim for a healthy balanced diet, including plenty of fruit and vegetables - at least five portions a day.

Be SunSmart

Protect yourself from the sun and harmful UV. Cover up and take care not to burn. Watch moles for any changes and get unusual skin blemishes checked out by the doctor. Avoid using sunbeds.

Look after number one

Know your body, be aware of any changes and contact your doctor if you notice anything unusual. Go for screening when invited - it could save your life.

About Cancer Research UK

  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
  • Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or go to our pages about Cancer Research UK.

About Weight Concern

Weight Concern is a UK charity committed to researching and developing effective, evidence-based treatments for childhood and adult obesity. The charity also provides education and training for health professionals in techniques to help support people who want to control their weight.

Weight Concern has a leading reputation in the field of overweight and obesity and is staffed by clinical psychologists, clinical and research dietitians and behavioural experts.

For further information about Weight Concern’s work, please visit the Weight Concern website or contact them by e-mail.

Please note we are unable to provide individual weight loss advice.

Media enquiries about Weight Concern only please contact Caroline Swain on 020 7679 1796.