LONDON, ENGLAND - The European Union (EU) is expected to approve a uniform system of food labeling, though officials are divided over "traffic light" color-coding of foods, the BBC reports.
One idea is to earmark red labels for foods deemed unhealthy because they are high in fat, sugar, or salt. But food producers oppose such a scheme, arguing that a "red light" would demonize their products.
Some retailers prefer Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) on their packages, though it is not clear which system the EU will ultimately adopt.
Other labeling conflicts concern country of origin (Danish bacon, for instance, is sometimes labeled "U.K. produce"), the amount of information to provide on a package's front, and legibility (the European Commission proposed a minimum 3mm font size for lettering).
The Commission maintains that food labels need updating because many consumers purchase food online and food is packaged in new ways. Some proponents of re-labeling also cite rising obesity rates in Europe as necessitating unambiguous information that helps consumers make healthful purchasing decisions.
Traffic light food labeling is already in use by some supermarkets and it is supported by BEUC, the European Consumers' Organization.
"Independent research tells us that the color-coded labeling scheme...is the system of labeling that shoppers find the most useful and easiest to understand," said BEUC director general Monique Goyens.
The European Parliament's environment committee rejected mandatory traffic light labeling in March, saying countries should be able to retain national schemes as long as they did not conflict with EU rules.
Once legislation is agreed, food producers will have three years to update their labels, and firms with fewer than 100 employees will have five years to comply.