E.U. votes against 'traffic light' labeling

by Eric Schroeder
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LONDON — After 18 months of discussions, members of the European Parliament’s environment committee on March 16 voted against imposing E.U.-wide use of a “traffic light” system to show important nutrient amounts. The announcement comes even as the committee said food labels should give information on energy content and nutritional value, but must do so in a clear and concise manner.

The draft legislation set forth by the committee said it will seek to “modernize, simplify and clarify food labeling within the European Union” by making minor changes to existing rules, such as adding requirements to list key nutritional information and showing the country of origin.

In terms of mandatory nutrition information, the committee said companies should provide key information such as amounts of fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugar and salt on the front of package, with specific rules added to guarantee that energy content is visible as well.

The committee rejected the “traffic light” system that would have featured red, yellow and green lights, saying that any proposed regulation should provide only general rules on how information should be displayed, not prescribe any specific system. Such a move would allow member states of the E.U. to adopt or retain national labeling rules, the committee said.

The committee said the regulations will not go into effect until 20 days after their publication in the E.U. Official Journal, and any rules on nutrition labeling would not take effect until three years after that. Food business operators with fewer than 100 employees and annual sales of less than €5 million would not have to make changes until five years after publication in the Official Journal, the committee said.
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