The food industry has signalled its intention to undermine the Food Standards Agency's 'traffic light' labelling scheme by focusing on a rival proposal based on guideline daily amounts (GDAs).

Food industry body the Food and Drink Federation announced that the 21 leading food manufacturers it represents, along with supermarket chains Tesco, Morrisons and Somerfield, have thrown their weight behind the GDA system.

"We have worked with experts to develop a more scientifically sound system," an FDF spokesperson told just-food today (30 November).

However, health campaigners have accused the food industry of resisting the FSA's traffic lights proposal because many of their products would receive an amber or red light, signalling that they were high in fat, salt on sugar. The FSA concluded that consumers find GDA labelling difficult to understand, preferring red, yellow and green traffic light labels as an easy means to identify healthy foods.

Regardless of this criticism, the industry said that it intends to push ahead with GDA labelling, adding guideline daily amounts to 10,000 food products by as early as next year.

Speaking at a press conference in London, Gavin Neath, chief executive of Unilever UK and president of the FDF, said: "It's not about which scheme consumers like best, it's about what will drive their behaviour."

The GDA scheme calculates how much fat, salt and sugar a portion of a specific product supplies against a maximum daily amount that is considered healthy to eat. "It relates to the portion that you would actually eat rather than a per 100 gram figure, so the GDA system relates more directly to what is being consumed," an FDF representative told just-food.

This, health campaigners claim, provides food manufacturers with a loophole that allows them to use smaller portions to make a product appear healthier than it actually is.