Chile proceeds with ‘Stop’ sign

On Jan 16, 2013, Chile notified the TBT Committee of the proposed amendment of its Food Health Regulation. Over the next two years, concerns raised by numerous members (Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, the EU, the US, Switzerland, Australia, Argentina, Canada, Colombia and Costa Rica) at meetings of the TBT Committee had mixed results.

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Chile originally responded to concerns by decreasing the scope of products affected by the measure, proposing the use of the phrase ‘excess in …’, and altering the symbol to be used. However, for the most part, the final version of the amendment, which takes effect on June 27, 2016, returns to the more restrictive nature of the original version.

It uses the phrase ‘high in …’ and retains the black octagon symbol. The limits triggering the warning will also be made stricter over time:

– From June 27, 2016, solid food with 22.5g/100g of sugar (and liquid foods with 6g/100g) will have to be labelled with a black octagon, which states ‘high in sugar’.

– From June 27, 2017, the threshold will be lowered to 15g/100g of sugar (and liquid foods containing 5g/100g).

– From June 27, 2018, the label will be required for solid foods containing 10g/100g of sugar, but the liquid foods threshold will remain the same.

The limits for energy, sodium and saturated fats in solid and liquid foods will be similarly reduced over this period. At a meeting of the TBT Committee on Nov 4-6, 2015, Chile stated that it will review the impact of the measure in two years.

‘Traffic light’ scheme in Europe
Use of the ‘traffic light’ warning label in some countries in Europe is also of great concern to the food industry. This seeks to transmit naturally complex messages (the full nutritional profile) through a very simple means (a colour).

In June 2013, the UK issued a set of guidelines to be applied in cases where operators decide to use colour-coding as an additional form of expression. The ‘traffic light’ scheme includes affixing a label on the front of pre-packed foods and use of a colour-based code (red, amber or green) to draw attention to the amount of certain nutrients.

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The system was recommended by the UK Health Ministry and Food Standards Agency. Although recourse to colour-coding is voluntary, operators must abide by the government’s guidelines if they wish to put it in practice. Fortunately, in October 2014, the European Commission formally opened proceedings against the UK for its ‘traffic light’ system due to concerns that it is more trade restrictive than necessary.

In France, the Parliament is considering the adoption of a ‘simplified’ nutrition labelling scheme that would take into account the caloric, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content of food and combine the results on a five-point scale with dots coloured green, yellow, orange, pink or red. The scheme is included in the draft French Public Health Act, which is still under debate.

On Oct 27, 2015, retailers and distributers that are members of the French Trade and Retailing Federation – such as Auchan, Carrefour, Casino, Monoprix and Système U – had presented their proposal for a national simplified nutrition labelling scheme to various ministries and consumer associations at a meeting organised by the Ministry of Health.

The proposal, called Aquellefréquence (‘how frequently’), specifies an algorithm for classifying food products by four colours (green, blue, amber and purple), depending on how often they should be consumed.


 

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