A new symbol was launched in Sydney yesterday [Tuesday] on some food packaging to help health-conscious consumers identify how quickly the foodstuffs make their blood sugar levels rise.

The voluntary symbol, which rates food with regard to the Glycemic Index (GI), was developed by the University of NSW, Diabetes Australia and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The GI rating of the particular food is given as high, medium or low, after the product is tested in an accredited laboratory.

Professor Jennie Brand-Miller said the development and launch of the symbol builds on substantial and growing evidence that the overall glycemic index of the diet has an effect on health and wellbeing: "A lower overall GI for diet appears to have benefits for weight management and cardiovascular health."
She explained however that while the goal is to ultimately lower the overall GI of one's diet, moderate or high GI foods should not necessarily be avoided: "There are many excellent and very nutritious high GI foods and they have a legitimate and desirable role in our diets. Knowing the GI of individual foods allows consumers to combine high GI and low GI foods in the same meal (mix and match) so that the overall effect is intermediate rather than high GI."

Juice manufacturer "Wild About Fruit" (WAF) markets one of the first products to use the symbol in Coles supermarkets. MD Ben Mould said: "Any manufacturer can simply put the words 'Low, medium or high GI' on their packaging without having to licence their product through the Symbol program.  However, the important difference is that the GI symbol is monitored by credible organisations and reflects that the product has been tested by a reliable methodology. 

"Thus, it can give consumers great confidence and we can give them that information easily and without confusing them with too much science."