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Mediterranean Food Producers See Red Over U.K. 'Traffic Light' Labels

Aug. 15, 2013
Julie Butler

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Mediterranean Food Producers See Red Over U.K. "Traffic Light" Nutrition Labels

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.

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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.


Sources:

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”

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