MEPs vote against Co-op label system

The Co-operative Group has vowed to continue using the ‘traffic light’ food labelling system despite a vote against the scheme by Euro MPs.

In a vote in the European Parliament, MEPs overwhelmingly backed the Guideline Daily Amounts system favoured by food manufacturers and decided that food labels should feature mandatory nutritional information, but not the ‘traffic light’ warnings which highlight the salt, sugar and fat content of processed foods. 

However no quick agreement is expected with the Council of Ministers, so the draft legislation is likely to return to the European Parliament for a second reading at a later stage.

In the meantime, Cathryn Higgs, the Co-operative Group’s Food Policy Manager, told the News: “The Group has supported traffic light labelling since 2006 and is currently rolling out a version that includes Guideline Daily Amounts in line with recent Food Standards Authority recommendations.

“Research indicates that a front of pack scheme using colours and GDAs is well liked and understood by consumers. Our labelling has always been driven by what our customers want and, as long as they continue to find traffic light information useful, we will continue to use the scheme.”

Country of origin labelling is already compulsory for certain foods, such as beef, honey, olive oil and fresh fruit and vegetables. MEPs supported extending this to all meat, poultry, dairy products and other single-ingredient products. 

They also voted for the country of origin to be stated for meat, poultry and fish when used as an ingredient in processed food. However, this may be subject to an impact assessment. 

The final vote in the European Parliament was 559 in favour, 54 against and 32 abstentions. Once the legislation is adopted, food businesses will have three years to adapt to the rules. Smaller operators, with fewer than 100 employees and an annual turnover under €5 million, would have five years to comply. 

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