British traffic light food labelling branded 'unfair'

26th February 2014 - Fine Cut

An enquiry is being launched into Britain's voluntary system of traffic light labelling on food products, after European Union (EU) member states complained that it was "unfair".

The scheme is designed to inform consumers how much salt, fat and sugar there is in a certain food item, to help them to become more aware of what they are eating and to make better informed choices about purchases. The information also lets members of the public know about how much or little of their recommended daily allowance is contained within a certain product.

At the end of last week, the European Commission announced it had fielded complaints that "adoption of such a hybrid food labelling scheme in the UK would fragment the issue of nutrition labelling in the European Union", Reuters reports.

However, Italy is leading a campaign against the system, after - it believes - certain products are receiving an unjustifiably rough deal. For example, cheese - a product commonly imported from the EU to Britain - is often stamped with a warning light due to its high fat content.

For this reason, EU regulators have launched a preliminary investigation into how compatible such a system is with the bloc's rules concerning the free movement of goods.

Unsurprisingly, Britain has responded, refuting all allegations that the system does not comply with EU food laws. 

"It is the result of over 11 years of research to identify a label that consumers can use at a glance to identify healthier choices and to highlight those foods that are high in salt, fat, saturated fat and sugar," a government spokesman said.

The British Heart Foundation has also backed a traffic light system, saying it believes it is "key" in helping people to make informed choices about what they eat. With obesity being such a prevalent problem for Britain and many other western nations, highlighting those foods that contain high quantities of fat, sugar and salt might encourage individuals to steer clear of them and improve their diet.

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