Blog Post for: Elizabeth Claydon
06/23/2010 | Elizabeth Claydon
Traffic Color Coding
In another loss to the struggle against the food industries, the European Union has passed new standards on foods without including the aptly named “traffic color coding” on food items. The proposed color-coding system would have effectively labeled unhealthy foods (defined as foods high in sugar, salt, and fat) with a red light. Food industry lobbyists worried that this visible labeling system would “demonize” their foods and hurt sales. Additionally, the food companies feared that government administration would have too much regulatory power over them if more stringent and controversial steps like color coding were taken.
So foods will remain neutral, with labels only providing nutrition information, but not making judgment calls on the quality of the food. New legislation will still include front-of-the-pack labeling of calories, fat, saturated fat, and carbohydrates per serving. However, this information doesn’t provide an easy cue to consumers who are looking for a healthy choice. Instead of seeing an easily-recognizable warning sign about unhealthy foods, consumers have to read the entire label and analyze the food’s merit for themselves, which most people in a hurry are less likely to do.
This action represents a drawback in efforts to inform and help the populace make better choices about their health. In order to make the healthy choice the default, steps will need to be taken to ensure that industry lobbyists do not have the final say in food policy.