MEPs reject colour coded warning labels on food

18th June 2010 - Fine Cut

Food labelling received a serious blow, after MEPs rejected plans to put colour coded warning labels on food.

The proposal for the traffic light style labels, which would have used red, amber and green to indicate levels of salt, sugar, fat and saturated fat in foods, was declined despite evidence that it worked well with shoppers.

The vote came after intense lobbying by the European food industry, who spent an estimated €1 billion trying to convince MEPs not to adopt the scheme.

Had the proposal been successful, all of the foods high in fat, sugar or salt would have been forced to have a red mark on the front of their packaging.

Red would have meant consumers could enjoy the product once in a while, amber foods would have been acceptable most of the time and green would indicate that the product was fine to eat.

The traffic light scheme has already been adopted to varying degrees by a number of retailers in Britain including Asda, Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencer and The Co-Operative. It is not known if the result of the vote will mean these retailers will have to remove the colour system from their products.

MEPs approved labels that indicated a person's guideline daily amount and quantities per 100g and labels indicating the products country of origin remained mandatory.

German Christian Democrat MEP, Renate Sommer described the labelling system as 'simplistic'. He told the EUObserver: "Personally, I am pleased that MEPs did not support traffic light labelling, but I also feel that we can continue to improve the current proposal to better inform consumers."

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