The European Union has dealt a potentially fatal blow to traffic lights labelling after MEPs voted against proposals to make the system mandatory.

The European Parliament instead gave its backing to the GDA system favoured by retailers including Tesco and Morrisons as well as a raft of manufacturers.

The GDA system will now become mandatory across member countries of the EU.

News of the vote – which effectively draws a line under years of conflict over the controversial scheme – was welcomed by the Food & Drink Federation.

"We are pleased that MEPs have taken a measured approach to many aspects of this complex and far-reaching regulation, which will impact all manufacturers – from the largest supermarket supplier to the small producers selling at farmers' markets,” said Barbara Gallani, the FDF’s director of food safety and science.

But health campaigners were critical of the decision, with Monique Goyens of consumer group BEUC calling the vote a “serious setback”.

“Despite being presented with a wealth of independent research confirming that the vast majority of consumers wanted the colour coding system, MEPs have mystifyingly voted against it,” she said.

“One wonders how we are to convince lawmakers that the fight against obesity and the battle to improve public health needs to start with action today, not tomorrow.”

Read more
Euro MPs vote down traffic lights plan (17 March 2010)
EU rules may snarl up labelling compromise (13 March 2010)
Is it all over for traffic light labels? (analysis; 28 March 2009)