Comment - Traffic light labels and all that
Whatever food labelling system is adopted by the EU, the key to its success will be consistency.
The worst case scenario for food and drink firms would be a lack of agreement in the European Council of Ministers that leads to an open-ended approach to labelling.
This could give multinationals headaches by offering EU member states too much flexibility to impose their own rules.
As for the rules that are adopted, it seems unlikely that the much-fabled traffic light labelling system will be the central system used.
Media reports ahead of a debate in the European Parliament today (16 June) have focused on the lobbying millions spent by food and drink trade bodies to persuade MEPs and European Commission bureaucrats that the traffic light system should remain a no-go.
In reality, food and drink firms have been preparing the ground for several years by agreeing en masse to adopt the Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) system instead of colour-coding.
The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has taken a lead on food labelling among its counterparts across the EU, yet even as the FSA was considering its position, companies were already launching front-of-pack GDA labels in the UK.
The FSA has since watered down its initial backing for a traffic light system to highlight food and drink high in sugar, fat and salt. It said recently that colour-coding should only be used as a side-kick to GDAs, but it is not compulsory.
The FSA guidance is expected to form a working basis for debate in EU circles.
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