Nutritional food labelling is confusing and widely misunderstood, an independent study commissioned by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has found.

The controversy in the food industry over the best means to communicate nutritional labelling deepened yesterday (29 September) when the interim study, released at the half-way point of the FSA's investigation into the matter, highlighted a number of negatives associated with current labelling methods.

According to the Project Management Panel (PMP), an independent body of industry experts overseeing the investigation, both of the popular front-of-pack labelling schemes - guideline daily amounts and traffic light labelling - confuse the majority of consumers.

The initial investigation found that some shoppers feel "cheated" by labels that only refer to a portion and not a whole pack, while many fail to understand red means "bad" and green means "good" in the traffic light system.

However, the FSA was quick to downplay the negative implications of the preliminary study.

"There is some confusion among shoppers, but the PMP is unable to quantify it yet. It is too early to say what isn't working," a spokesperson for the watchdog told just-food. "People do want front-of-pack sign-posting and they do welcome it."

The PMP will now move onto the second phase of the study, which will include surveying 3,000 shoppers to find out their understanding of front-of-pack labelling.

The FSA told just-food that it would make a recommendation on which method the UK food industry should employ in the spring of next year.