Food agency slimmed down

Shake-up in UK's food labelling

By Jyotika Sood
Published: Tuesday 31 August 2010

THE British Food Standard Agency (FSA) has been relieved of its task to decide what is healthy and what is not.

The change, announced on July 20, follows FSA's unsuccessful drive to introduce "traffic light labelling system" for food items across Europe. The system would have required food companies to label the front of their products with red, amber or green symbols signifying levels of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar in each serving. FSA called the system consumer-friendly. The British Medical Association and British Dietetic Association support it.

The watchdog will now focus on food safety, said UK Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley, who advocates rival system, "guideline daily amount". The system is a set of guidelines which give percentage of fats, salt, sugar and calories that constitute a healthy diet. Multinationals like Nestlé and Kraft prefer this system for its ambiguity.

FSA's responsibilities of determining food value and labelling have been given to the Department of Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, respectively. In June, European Parliament rejected the traffic light labelling in a preliminary appraisal under pressure from industry. Without UK's leadership, the colour labelling is likely to fall through.

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