The traffic lights labelling saga continues…

Despite the scheme, british consumers keeps on buying Italian cheese in ever greater quantities
The traffic lights labelling saga continues…

The debate surrounding “traffic light” labelling goes on. While the EU decision on whether or not to open infringement procedures against Great Britain is currently frozen, new countries are now adopting this suspect labelling system. With the aim of helping to improve public health, the traffic light scheme assigns food products a colour-coded rating (green, yellow or red), according to the levels of certain key nutrients that they contain.

France and Finland have announced they may introduce a “hybrid” traffic light labelling scheme, New Zealand has just launched a voluntary nutritional food rating system and Ecuador has already adopted the British system with relevant colours highlighting high salt, sugar and fat contents.


These are decisions that require careful consideration, according to Assolatte (the Italian association of dairy manufacturers), who has been opposed to the labelling scheme since 2013. This is due to a lack of scientific evidence to support the scheme and because it is an apparent infringement of EU regulations designed to harmonize consumer information across member states. Furthermore, Assolatte sees the scheme as potentially harmful due to the fact many foods will receive a red rating without due consideration of their overall nutritional value. The alarm has been raised by Assolatte and further disseminated by Health minister Beatrice Lorenzin.


According to Assolatte the paradox is that the traffic light scheme does not just represent an infringement by the UK government, but it also seems to be ineffective since it has not convinced UK consumers to adopt healthier eating practices. The fact that a food label displays a red rating does not seem to stop consumers from buying the product. Equally a green rating does not automatically mean they will decide to put that item in their shopping trolley.


Whatever the outcome, sales of Italian cheeses keep going up, whether they have dop (protected origin) status like gorgonzola and grana padano, are more traditional like mozzarella and provolone or brand new, like Italian spreadable cheeses for example. Between january and april 2014, Italian cheese exports grew to the tune of 7.8%. This positive result follows an already exceptional year in 2013, which closed out at +8.6%, with a record 29,000 tonnes of cheese exported. Figures which make the UK the fourth end market for Italian dairy businesses.

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