`EU Rejects UK’s 'Traffic Light' Nutritional Labeling - Olive Oil Times

EU Rejects UK’s 'Traffic Light' Nutritional Labeling

Oct. 8, 2014
Chris Lindahl

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The European Union has rejected the United Kingdom’s con­tro­ver­sial traf­fic light” nutri­tional label­ing scheme, cit­ing a para­dox­i­cal exam­ple where Diet Coke is labeled more favor­ably than extra vir­gin olive oil.

The European Commission has filed an infringe­ment pro­ce­dure against the U.K. gov­ern­ment, which has two months to respond to the alle­ga­tions. The charges allege an infringe­ment on the EU’s core prin­ci­ple of the free move­ment of goods; that is, the gov­ern­ment is unlaw­fully inter­fer­ing with consumer’s choices.

The traf­fic light” nutri­tional infor­ma­tion sys­tem was enacted by the U.K. gov­ern­ment in an effort to fight obe­sity and help peo­ple make bet­ter food choices. The vol­un­tary sys­tem — which is widely sup­ported by Britain’s largest super­mar­ket chains — uses red, amber and green color codes to label the calo­ries, sugar, fat, sat­u­rated fat and sodium con­tent of a prod­uct. Green sig­nals a low amount of a given nutri­ent; amber a medium amount and red, high.

A red light” is indi­cated when fat con­tent of a given prod­uct exceeds 17.5g/100g.

That well-mean­ing but sim­plis­tic guide­line cre­ates a log­i­cal para­dox when it comes to super foods like olive oil, said Coldiretti, Italy’s National Confederation of Farmers.

The goal of the traf­fic lights was to decrease the con­sump­tion of fat, salt and sugar but not based on the amount actu­ally con­sumed, but only the generic pres­ence of a cer­tain type of sub­stance,” said a spokesper­son. This ends up exclud­ing foods such as extra vir­gin olive oil while pro­mot­ing car­bon­ated bev­er­ages with­out sugar, mis­lead­ing con­sumers with respect to the real nutri­tional value.”

Because the sys­tem sim­ply looks at num­bers, the result is sugar-free soft drinks like Diet Coke receiv­ing a green light,” despite the pres­ence of con­tro­ver­sial arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers and hav­ing no health ben­e­fits.

Coldiretti said that the Italian export mar­ket will be harmed by the sys­tem, which also frowns upon cheese and pro­sciutto.

Upon pas­sage of the sys­tem in 2013, London said that it com­plied with EU Regulation No. 1169/2011, which con­cerns the pro­vi­sion of food infor­ma­tion to con­sumers.


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