UK challenged over ‘simplistic’ traffic light labelling

The UK has been given two months to respond to claims from Italy and Spain that its traffic light nutritional labelling system breaches EU trade laws.

Last week the EU has sent a “letter of formal notice” to London, after deciding that the traffic light system was “simplistic”.

The EU says it is concerned that the colour coding of food products could “make the marketing of some products more difficult and therefore hinder or impede trade between EU countries.”

When the traffic scheme was launched in Britain last year it prompted an angry furious response from Italian food producers and the Italian government, which argued that British shoppers would stop buying parmesan, salami, olive oil and other Italian foods which may contain fat but make up the much-vaunted Mediterranean diet.

Gaetano Pascale, the head of the Slow Food group in Italy, said at the time: “You risk a red code for extra virgin olive oil and green for Coca-Cola Light.”

To date, the UK scheme has secured the backing of just two EU members – Hungary and Finland. But Britain’s Department for Health insisted: “We are confident that the UK is compliant with the principle of free movement of goods in relation to food labelling.”