Traffic light labelling should be rolled out across Europe, according to British MEP Glenis Willmott, following the UK’s introduction of a hybrid labelling system that includes GDAs (guideline daily amounts) as well as colour coding last month.
Willmott said that only EU-wide regulation would ensure that all multinational food companies adopt the traffic light colour coding system.
“To allow consumers to truly compare products and see what is in all processed foods we need rules that cover the whole EU single market,” she said in a statement. “When I tried to make that change to EU law in 2011, the food industry was completely against my proposals, spending an estimated one billion euro on lobbying.
“…While I commend the work done to get supermarkets and manufacturers on board, only EU regulation can ensure all the big transnational food companies will comply with the scheme.”
A handful of major food manufacturers has pledged to use the traffic light scheme in the UK alongside GDAs – but there are notable exceptions. Mars and Nestlé UK are on board, but Mondelez International, United Biscuits, Coca-Cola, Kellogg and Dairy Crest are among those that have not adopted the labels.
Indeed, the European food industry has said it supports nutrition labelling regulation at an EU level. Trade organisation FoodDrinkEurope said that allowing the UK to combine its national traffic light scheme with EU-mandated GDAs could lead to a proliferation of national schemes and fragmentation of the EU internal market.
Willmott has been a strong supporter of traffic light labelling at an EU level, and called a meeting with consumer groups and public health organisations to continue lobbying on the issue even after it had been rejected by the European Parliament in 2010 in favour of a GDA-based system.
MEPs also voted against proposals to allow individual Member States to retain national labelling schemes such as the UK Food Standards Agency’s traffic lights system. However, this was later overturned.