MEPs have thrown out a proposal for ‘traffic light’ values on food packaging, but have backed plans for food labels that feature mandatory nutritional information, defeating the UK Food Standards Agency’s wish to see traffic light labelling adopted universally.

‘Traffic light’ values to highlight the salt, sugar and fat content of processed foods were rejected in favour of labelling rules that would enable consumers to make informed healthy choices, while limiting the financial and administrative burden on food businesses, following a vote at the European Parliament yesterday (16 June).

Politicians backed the European Commission proposal that the amount of fat, saturates, sugar and salt, as well as energy information, should be indicated on front-of-pack labelling, accompanied by guideline daily amounts.

“Overall I am satisfied with the result of today’s important vote on clearer food information rules,” commented Renate Sommer, who drafted the report. “Personally, I am pleased that MEPs did not support traffic light labelling, but I also feel that we can continue to improve the current proposal to better inform consumers.”

MEPs also voted in favour of extending country-of-origin labelling to all meat, poultry, dairy and other single-ingredient products, and to meat, poultry and fish when used as an ingredient in processed food.

A proposal to ‘delete’ nutrient profiles from existing EU nutrition and health claims was rejected by a single vote.

The draft legislation is expected to return to the European Parliament for a second reading and, when the legislation is adopted, food businesses will be given three years to adapt to the new rules. Businesses with a turnover of under €5m and fewer than 100 employees would have five years to comply.