Olive oil producers are among European food industry members concerned the United Kingdom’s “traffic-light” food labeling will see their flagship products rated unhealthy.
The U.K. government says the voluntary system — part of its anti-obesity drive — will help people make healthier food choices.
Color codes signal high, medium or low contents
The system uses red, amber and green color-coding to signal whether 100g of a retail product has a high, medium or low content of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar relative to an adult’s maximum recommended daily amount. The more green lights, the healthier the food.
The scheme — which has the backing of the UK’s main supermarket chains and also some of the biggest snack food producers — calls for a “red light” in the fat category if the contents exceed 17.5g/100g and in the saturates category if above 5g/100g.
Olive oil is usually considered a healthy choice in fats because it is high in unsaturated fats however, since it is 100 percent fat and has about 14g of saturated fat for each 100g, it would attract two red lights.
Concerns raised in European Parliament over “unhealthy” stigma
The European Parliament has been told that the labeling will harm imports of typical Mediterranean foods such as olive oil, cheese and ham, because they will be “classed as ‘unhealthy’.”
Italian Member of the European Parliament Mara Bizzotto, one of various politicians to raise the issue, recently asked the European Commission to act to prevent any such harm.
“Will it take steps in support of Italian food industry firms, whose products are world-famous for their quality and which will be penalised under the British scheme,” she asked in a written question to the Commission in the Parliament.
“What answer will it give to Federalimentare, the Italian food industry federation, and other food trade associations, which are calling on the E.U. to ascertain whether the above-mentioned initiative is lawful?” she also wrote.
U.K. health authorities say the front of pack colour coding complies with E.U .Regulation No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.
UK Govt press release “Final design of consistent nutritional labelling system given green light” June 19, 2013
Guide to creating a front of pack (FoP) nutrition label for pre-packed products sold through retail outlets
Mara Bizzotto (EFD), written question P7_QE(2013)009289 “Red label for Italian products sold in the United Kingdom”