New Labeling System in the U.K. May Penalize Italian Food Products

Tue, 01/14/2014 - 04:37

The U.K. has recently implemented a new system for labeling foods, which provides a colored sticker on the packaging: green for healthy products, yellow for those that should be eaten in small quantities, red for unhealthy products. The goal is to warn consumers against foods with high amounts of fat, sugar or salt.

However, some Italian products that represent the best of Italian food, like Parmesan cheese, Parma ham, Colonnata lard and extra virgin olive oil, have ended up in the "junk food" category (red sticker), sparking a protest from EU representatives for Italy at the latest European Council on consumers’ health.

Italian representatives have pointed out that the new labeling system could generate a lot of confusion among consumers. They are not alone in this: nine more European countries, including France, Spain and Greece, have also expressed concern over the labeling. They are asking to verify that the “traffic lights” system does not actually produce a misleading message about health and nutrition, given that, based on the British system, a DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) cheese could end up with a red sticker, while a soda could get a green one.

Representatives have said that the labeling system adopted in the UK “does not make sense because it does not consider the real consumption of quality products. Nobody eats every day for all of their life, and not even for a week on end, large amounts of, say, ham. Putting a red light to any possible abuse means putting up market barriers.” They stress the fact that products symbolizing the excellence of Made in Italy cannot be branded with a red light based on the assumption of a continued consumption, thus resulting in an unbalanced diet.

The final decision now rests with the European Union. Food Safety Commissioner Tonio Borg said he will assess the situation and supervise any possible violations to European market rules.