photo by dpup (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

The European Parliament shot down a plan to require the clear labeling of the healthiness of packaged food in the EU last week. The proposed label system involved an easily understandable color scheme, which would be placed on the front of the container in plain view. Another wish of many MEPs is to require information clearly stating from which country the food originated.

On most food products available in Europe, information indicating high salt, sugar and saturated fat contents are small and ‘hidden’ on the back or sides of packaging, while positive nutritional content is in plain view on the front. Many consider this confusing or misleading.

From an article in The Ecologist:

Foods high in these ingredients would have been given red warning labels [a proposal that] had been widely supported by health and consumer groups. Sainsburys and Asda have also adopted the scheme on some of their produce.

Though the color coded label plan was rejected, the EU parliament did vote for Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) to be placed on the front of packaging, a system which health and consumer campaigners believe to be too obscure for many.

Some might argue that it’s a form of big government social engineering to require the presence of simple green, amber and red labels indicating the healthiness of consumer food products. But as it is, the companies are the ones doing the engineering of our health by providing misleading and confusing information – especially when it comes to children.

EU MEPs in favor of the so-called ‘traffic light labeling’ blamed the European food industry, especially the CIAA (Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU) who are estimated to have spent €1 billion on lobbying against the plan.

See this pair of BBC News reports with accompanying video for more:

EU votes on standard food warning labels

EU votes on standard food labels

Additional resources:

European Consumers’ Organization (BEUC) – Food

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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