EU calls for clear food labelling

15th June 2010 - Fine Cut

The European Parliament (EP) is considering proposals to regulate food labelling across its member states.

The proposals could mean that product labels showing country of origin could become compulsory on produce such as meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables. In addition, the traffic light system, showing green for food that is low in a specified nutrient, amber for foods that are at an ok level of nutrient and red for foods that are high in a given nutrient such as salt or fat could become mandatory.

These policy proposals have received criticism from food experts, with the BBC commenting that the traffic light system could ''stigmatise'' certain foods like cheese, which are high in fat, but also high in important nutrients like calcium and protein.

Traffic light labels are currently adopted in many UK supermarkets according to the European Consumers Organisation (BEUC). Monique Goyens, director general of the Organisation was cited in the BBC as backing EU proposals, saying: ''Independent research tells us that the colour-code labelling scheme is the system of labelling that shoppers find the most useful and easiest to understand.''

Whilst the policy could cut obesity related illness and death, some food stores and manufacturers have chosen not to participate including Tesco, Morrisons, PepsiCo and Kraft. If the proposed legislation is agreed by the EP, these corporations would be forced to comply.

Labour spokesperson on health, Glenis Willmott was cited in The Independent as saying of such companies: ''Some food manufacturers have poured enormous amounts of money, time and effort into challenging these ideas that would give consumers a better understanding of what's in their food - they don't want to see traffic light labels because they don't want this kind of information in such an easy-to-understand format. They prefer complex labels that make it far harder for shoppers to understand what's going in their basket.''

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