EU not happy with Britain’s simplistic food labelling system

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The EU has asked Britain to answer complaints regarding its ‘traffic light’ anti-obesity food labelling system. This came about as Mediterranean countries state that it is unfair towards their products.

The labelling system was devised as a method to alert consumers with red, yellow and green indicators. However, many of the southern European nations state that it does not separate junk food from traditional products which contain naturally high fat levels.

A spokesman on industry and entrepreneurship, Miguel Sagredo, said the European commission, the executive arm of the EU, delivered a ‘letter of formal notice’ to Britain which should be replied to within a period of two months.

Sagredo said the commission will be looking for information from the UK authorities on how this system would cause a negative effect on the marketing of a range of products. He said they have concerns that the system may make marketing of some of these products difficult, which could hamper trade between countries in the EU.

He added that the simplistic nature of the traffic light system could, in certain circumstances, crease a consumer misconception.

During February, an infringement procedure was started by the European Commission to determine whether the traffic light system used by Britain is complies with EU rules regarding free movement of goods.

This case may well end up in European courts.

Britain’s argument is that the system, which classes food as green, amber or red, based on the level of sugar, salt and fat content, is voluntary and it is fully compliant with overall EU food laws. The European Consumers’ Organisation, BEUC, wants the system to be used across the European Union.

Food producers in Mediterranean countries, particularly France, Italy and Spain, have raised objections to the labelling system. This is due to the fact that many southern European traditional foods, such as olive oil, ham and cheese, have been given the red light due to the high fat content.

Italian producers are particularly irate as they state that the system fails to consider southern culinary traditions, which make use of high-fat foods sparingly as part of a balanced diet.

Image Credit: Health Gauge

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