Russia to introduce traffic light food labelling system

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

All food will be marked with red, yellow or green lights based on health impact
All food will be marked with red, yellow or green lights based on health impact
Russia is to introduce a new nationwide ‘traffic light’ food labelling system.

Marking all food with either red, yellow or green, depending on what impact it may bring for the health of consumers, the labelling remains voluntary, but there are concerns it may cause some problems to meat producers.

The red light on a package would mean the product was potentially harmful, a green light would indicate it was mostly beneficial, and yellow light that the impact from its consumption was mixed.

Both chilled and frozen meat will be included into the green category, meaning its consumption is recommended for the consumers in certain quantities, the Health Ministry of Russia told GlobalMeatNews​.

The classification is still under discussion, but basically it is believed all types of unprocessed meat, including pork and beef, should end up in the green zone.

At the same time, it is quite possible that some processed meat, ready-to-cook products and sausages will fall into either yellow or red categories, the Ministry said. This will depend on the concentrations of salt, trans-fat, artificial colouring agents and preserving agents in the products.

The research, conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center, showed that nearly 82% of Russian citizens had supported the introduction of the new labelling system. In total, 77% of respondents said that they were ready to take into account the colour on the label, when choosing what product to purchase.

In Russian, Tatar, Ukrainian and Caucasian national cuisine there are many products that, according to the Health Ministry, would be potentially harmful to health, Sergey Yushin, the chairman of National Meat Association of Russia told GlobalMeatNews​. However, the impact for health of certain food is always relative and depends on the quantities consumed.

“There would not be any harm from the cured pork fat, if you are not eating it three times a day,”​ Yushin stressed.

Russian Government officials said that, in future, the traffic light labelling could become compulsory for all companies. In this case, the consequences to the Russian meat industry, including for its export potential could be “mostly negative”​, according to Yushin.

“There are concerns that the mandatory traffic light labelling will become a huge obstacle to the promotion of our agricultural products and foodstuffs to overseas markets. Meanwhile, President ​[Putin] has set a task to boost exports [from Russia] from the current $21 billion to $45 billion by 2024,”​ Yushin noted.

In addition, the compulsory food labelling could place another burden on producers, as they would have to spend more money on packaging, according to Yushin.

It is not clear, however, what impact the new labelling could have on domestic demand for sausages and various processed meats. Major meat producers in Russia have so far refrained from commenting on this issue, including whether they would be ready to start labelling their products.

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