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Interpretive food labels are designed to make healthy choices easier. Some New Zealand and Australian food manufacturers don’t like them. Instead, they promote the Daily Intake Guide system, also known as the Percentage Daily Intake (%DI) scheme.

As a minimum, the scheme requires participating manufacturers to display the energy component of a product in terms of the percentage of 8700 kilojoules contributed by a serving. They may also display percentage information about protein, total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugars and sodium.

A body of research shows that Percentage Daily Intake is likely to be much less helpful for assisting shoppers to make healthy food choices than interpretive systems.

Public health advocates believe the scheme is very inferior to interpretive systems in assisting food shoppers to make healthy choices. Reasons include:

  • Research favours traffic lights over percentage daily intake in helping people distinguish more healthy products
  • Percentage Daily Intake is based on the recommended daily intake for a 70 kilogram male. This can be misleading for children and for adults with differing energy needs, and confusing for someone shopping on behalf of a family.
  • A large segment of the population does not understand percentages
  • Percentage Daily Intake information is too complex to be absorbed in the second or two the typical shopper looks at a product on a supermarket shelf
  • Manufacturers choose the serving size percentages are based on – and can manipulate these
  • Because the scheme is voluntary, shoppers will not always be able to compare different products using the same criteria.

Pge updated 28 October 2013