EDA criticizes traffic light labeling plans for ignoring “good” nutrition

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19 Oct 2017 --- The European Dairy Association (EDA) has slammed the new traffic lights labeling system claiming that it falls short in certain areas relating to nutrition, dietary recommendations and what to limit in people’s diets. While the EDA believes and supports the fact that consumers should be fully informed on the nutritional properties of foods – which is one of the legal requirement of the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 – it says that new Evolved Nutrition Labelling Initiative (ENL) proposals don’t go far enough and is an inadequate system for milk and dairy products. 

 

The proposal is an extension of the color-coded UK traffic light system but with reference values including portions (and not only on 100g). The proposed system includes only the content of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt and ignores any positive nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals. 

EDA is fully engaged on nutrition and health topics with policy-makers, industry groups and other stakeholders to help make a positive impact on the overall public health. The health and nutrition debate has always been very close to the dairy industry.

In recent years, the European dairy sector has put a lot of effort, research and resources to ensure that consumers have access to a wide range of nutritious dairy products and the European dairy sector have closely followed the recent discussions on the proposal for a new labeling scheme. 

EDA believes that voluntary labeling schemes used in addition to the nutrition declaration required by the EU law can be a useful additional tool for consumers if they fulfill a number of important criteria: such a scheme should look at the food as a whole and support foods rich in essential nutrients. 

According to EDA, the scheme needs to include both nutrients to encourage and nutrients to limit in a diet, be in line with official dietary recommendations as well as be scientifically substantiated and stimulate a healthy dietary pattern. 

A good voluntary labeling scheme should be thoroughly evaluated, have a significant positive impact on consumer behavior and public health, be compatible with EU legislation and be supported by relevant stakeholders, it says. 

“Unfortunately, the latest traffic lights scheme proposal by six multinational food companies grouped in the Evolved Nutrition Labeling Initiative (ENL) does not fulfill these requirements and thus is not an adequate system for milk and dairy products,” says the EDA. 

The EDA describes this as a “selective approach” which does not recognize the importance of nutrient-dense foods as recommended in dietary recommendations nor does it help consumers to compose a balanced and varied diet with nutritious foods. 

“Traffic light-style schemes such as ENL are not in line with the principle of providing “objective and non-discriminatory” food information required by the EU legislation because the introduction of color-coding is a non-objective judgment of the nutritional quality of products and unnecessarily discriminate certain foods,” it says. 

“In addition, the UK traffic light system has not shown to change the consumer behavior and no study so far proves that color-coded and ‘negative nutrient’ based schemes indeed help to improve public health, e.g. by reducing obesity.”
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EDA Secretary general, Alexander Anton, highlights that it is well established that milk and dairy products are an important part of the dietary guidelines and recommendations across the EU and the health benefits of milk and dairy have been continuously recognized in the recently evaluated European School Milk Scheme.

In a Western diet, dairy products provide between 40 percent and 70 percent of the recommended daily calcium intake and in some member states dairy is also one the main natural sources of iodine in the diet – the intake of iodine from milk and dairy products is up to 37 percent.

Milk and dairy products are also natural sources of high-quality protein and many essential vitamins and minerals.

The proposed ENL scheme as currently presented has not been adapted to acknowledge the nutrient-rich foods and therefore is not adequate to milk and dairy products, add the EDA, which considers that color-coded systems, especially those focusing exclusively on nutrients “to limit” and ignoring the overall nutrient contribution of foods, give misleading information to consumers. 

“The ENL scheme has not reached its target of improving the UK traffic light scheme to give consideration of particular nutrition qualities of milk and dairy and therefore we find it not suitable for dairy products. It also induces confusing messages and possible errors in consumer understanding: a same product in the same shelf can display different results; it will encourage consumption of soft drinks compared to milk, or salted biscuits compared to cheese, and generally encourage more turning to less nutritionally interesting options compared to consumption of wholesome foods.”

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