SP: labels on food should be straightforward

16 March 2010

SP: labels on food should be straightforward

A success and a setback for the SP today in the European Parliament Committee on Food Safety and Health. It seems likely that, first of all, the packaging of foodstuffs will probably not carry a straightforward red, orange or green colour code, a system which would help the European consumer to establish whether, for example, a particular pack of breakfast cereal contains a large amount of sugar, salt or fat. On the other hand, a proposal from SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard, that the Netherlands (as well as Sweden and the United Kingdom) be allowed to introduce its own colour-coding system won the Committee's support.

Interest of the consumer

Kartika LiotardConsumer organisations have lobbied vehemently for the introduction of colour codes, which the food industry opposed. “I supported the consumer organisations, primarily because the traffic light colours are understandable and simple,” says Liotard. “Who has the time to stand in a supermarket with a calculator in your hand to do the necessary arithmetic? What you want is to be able to see at a glance whether a product suits you or not. The argument of the PvdA (Dutch Labour Party) MEP Judith Merkies that the traffic light system is patronising is one with which I certainly don't agree.”

Labour Party casts decisive vote

Merkies' PvdA, with the support of the Christian Democrats and (centrist liberals) D66, were able to ensure that the cause was, for the time being at least, lost. With votes tied at 30-30, the Parliament's rules meant that the proposal fell. Yet the rest of Merkies’ group, the centre-left Socialists and Democrats, voted in favour. “I'm not giving up the fight,” says the SP's Kartika Liotard. “In a few months the proposal will be voted on again, at the plenary meeting in Strasbourg."

An explanation of the system and a short film on the simplicity of colour codes can be found at http://foodwatch.de/e6380/e34762/

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