Officials concerned about food labelling changes

28th October 2013 - Fine Cut

New food labelling regulations being introduced across the European Union are set to give members of the public more information about the ingredients found in their favourite foods.

Officials are hoping that the traffic light system will encourage individuals to make healthier choices about the produce they purchase during their weekly shop by providing an accurate breakdown of the calories, fat content and salt in every item.

Although the new system is good news for people who have previously been unaware of the dangers of an unhealthy diet, some governments have criticised the plans.

One nation that is particularly unhappy with the traffic light method is Italy, with ministers reacting angrily that the UK system aims to highlight sugar, salt and fat content.

The government has claimed that by doing so, politicians are penalising top-quality traditional delicacies of the Mediterranean, while doing little to battle Britain's growing obesity problem.

Announced in June, the new labelling method has been welcomed in the UK. However, the Italian government has raised the issue with the European Commission - and is also discussing the matter with other countries in the region.

The traffic light system divides a food's nutritional content into fat, saturated fat, calories, salt and sugar - then colour codes each portion red, amber or green according to its levels.

Paolo de Castro, head of the European parliament's agriculture committee, said: "All of us want more information for the consumer… The consumer should know everything. Every piece of information should be there.

"But the traffic-light system seeks to influence people's choices."

The new labelling strategy is already in use in several major retailers across the UK, including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, the Co-op and Marks & Spencer. Food manufacturers have argued the labels give consumers the information they require to make educated decisions about the foods they consume.

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