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European trade organisations ‘deeply concerned’ by UK traffic light labelling

By Caroline Scott-Thomas+

21-Jun-2013

The new voluntary scheme includes traffic light colours as well as GDAs
The new voluntary scheme includes traffic light colours as well as GDAs

The Italian food industry has said it is deeply concerned by the UK government’s  decision to recommend traffic light colour coding as part of its front-of-pack nutrition labelling programme, saying that it is not based on sound science.

The UK’s Department of Health announced the new hybrid labelling scheme on Wednesday. All major UK retailers have signed up, as well as a handful of major food manufacturers.

But Italian industry trade organisations Federalimentare, Clitravi and ISB in Europe have issued a joint statement in which they say that classifying foods into green, amber and red categories is overly simplistic and does not take into account how different foods are combined in a total diet context.

“Numerous scientific studies have confirmed how misleading and erroneous the idea of concentrating on single foods is,” the statement reads. “In this respect, we wish to underline, once again, the importance of a varied and balanced diet, together with regular physical activity. We therefore continue to strongly oppose any food labelling system based on a “traffic-light” approach, which will end up just confusing consumers and giving them the wrong information about what they should eat.”

The Italian statement also agreed with the pan-European food and beverage industry association, FoodDrinkEurope, saying that the UK’s decision to include colour coding could fragment the issue of nutrition labelling in the EU .

Meanwhile, German food industry association, BLL, also said that the traffic light system was too simplistic, and that the German food industry – and German consumers – preferred GDA labelling.

"The colour rating of a few nutrients of a food does not contribute in our view to a better understanding of a balanced diet," said chief executive of the BLL, Christoph Minhoff, in a German-language statement.

However, he added that the German industry would watch the UK situation with interest, to see whether the hybrid labels have an impact on consumer behaviour.

FoodDrinkEurope’s director of communications Lisa McCooey told FoodNavigator: “The use of monochrome GDAs is already widespread across the EU market and our hope is that the application and use of this fact-based way of presenting information to consumers will continue to grow.”

In the UK, major retailers and some food manufacturers have been using traffic light colours front-of-pack for several years.

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