Nutritional labelling has, in recent years, proven to be one of the more decisive issues that both Europeans and Americans have been confronted with. Although the intent of health organizations around the world when redesigning and rethinking well-established labelling conventions is obviously aligned with the well-being of the general public, there remains a great deal of controversy surrounding the fine details of newly established labelling programs.
One of the more recent dramatic turns in the European labelling fight has taken place in Italy, where critics of the popular “traffic light” labelling scheme are arguing that many of Italy’s most popular food exports are actively being discriminated against. Examples of foods that have been singled out by Italian activists include olive oil, salami, various cheeses and the ever-popular Nutella, all of which have, in various ways, sacrificed nutritional “worth” in exchange for outstanding flavor. It’s also important to remember that many of these foods, while obviously detrimental to diet and health when consumed in large volumes, are often used sparingly, making them much less ‘hazardous’.
Due to the fact that the traffic light labelling scheme actively targets fat, salt and sugar consumption, many of Italy’s foods are being misrepresented by this comprehensive nutritional “litmus test”. The fact that European delicacies, such as those pointed to by Italian officials, are, by conventional standards, “unhealthy’ has also been acknowledged by the European Commission. In a recent statement, Miguel Sagredo, spokesman for the European Commission, discussed the possibility of shortcomings in the new system, stating, “The simplistic character of the traffic light system might in certain instances create a misconception (for) consumers,"
Although notice of Italy’s complaints have been sent to London, home of the commission responsible for the traffic light labelling scheme, it remains to be seen if the vocalization of these issues will provoke any improvement. UK-based officials, however, have made it clear that the traffic light scheme remains voluntary, and is not actively being forced upon Italian labelling conventions. Whether or not this scheme will be modified to accommodate Italy’s culinary legacy has yet to be seen. Regardless, it has become increasingly obvious that such labelling conventions will, invariably, produce a degree of drama and tension that will need to be discussed and, hopefully, resolved.
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