MEP calls for 'traffic light' food labelling


ALCOHOLIC DRINKS should have labels which show the sugar and calories contained in the products, an Irish MEP has said ahead of an EU vote on food labelling.

Nessa Childers is calling on her fellow Irish MEPs to support a “traffic light” food labelling system, in a vote in the EU Parliament later this week. If adopted, food products across Europe will be required to carry a “traffic light” colour code indicating the levels of calories, sugar and fats contained in their products.

But the Labour MEP feels that this system should also extend to alcoholic products.

“The ‘traffic light’ system is a simple, universally understood and transparent system that, if adopted, will go a long way towards helping to tackle Europe’s ticking obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart disease timebomb. However, I also believe that alcohol producers should be compelled to label their products for calories and sugar too.”

A 2009 Food Safety Authority of Ireland survey had found that 80 per cent of those surveyed called for labels on the consumption of alcohol on products.

This same piece of research identified that only 25 per cent of people read the nutritional advice on food labels when out shopping.

“The current GDA system adopted by mass food producers is complex, arguably misleading and generally misunderstood,” Ms Childers said, adding that the “traffic light” approach also has the benefit of being understood even at a distance and by those with literacy problems.

The “traffic light” system was voted down by the parliament’s public health and food safety committee in March in what was seen as a victory for the big food companies which have lobbied against the proposal. Ms Childers said the red, amber and green system was required to alert consumers to the nutritional value of products.

“We must confront the stark facts that 60 per cent of all adults in the EU – and 20 per cent of school-age children – are obese or overweight and millions of EU citizens suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes. These massive public health problems are only getting bigger and they are costing billions of euro per annum to our health services.”