Italy complains to EU over British food labels

17th December 2013 - Fine Cut
Italy complains to EU over British food labels

Ministers in Italy have threatened legal proceedings against British supermarkets, thanks to a new 'traffic light' labelling system for fatty foods.

Officials have complained to the European Union (EU) that the new method, which aims to give consumers more choice about the products they buy, discriminates against Italian items sold in the UK.

Politicians in the Italian capital have enlisted the backing of 15 countries in the EU, as food manufacturers warned that the new labelling scheme could cost them as much as €200 million (£170 million) a year in lost sales.

The new system, which was launched in June in British supermarkets, sees food marked with a green, amber or red light depending on their fat content. It aims to warn shoppers off consuming too much unhealthy food, as obesity figures continue to rise.

However, Italian officials have reacted angrily to the changes after realising that popular exports such as Parmesan cheese, salami, top-grade olive oil and prosciutto ham are all considered high risk foods under the changes.

Nunzia de Girolamo, minister for agriculture in Italy, took her complaint to an EU meeting of farming ministers earlier this week. She claimed that several EU states had also supported her opposition, the Daily Telegraph reports.

"We won't stand by and watch, inert, while the tradition and the work of thousands of Italians risks being damaged by commercial manoeuvres we see as unjustified and thoughtless," she explained.

A spokesman for Italian food producer Federalimentare said food exports from the country, which are considered to be 'red light' items, were worth €632 million.

Italian food experts have criticised the UK labelling system due to the fact it cites fat content, without recommending how much of the food should be eaten.

Food exports to the UK from Italy are worth €2.25 billion every year, making the country the fourth-largest export market after Germany, France and the US. In recent years, sales of Italian food have soared thanks to the rising popularity of the Mediterranean diet, which features ingredients such as virgin olive oil.

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