Italy bitter about EU food labelling rules
* Italy minister says EU "bureaucracy" will make world sour
* Nutella maker Ferrero says sweets consumption could drop
* Nutella is embedded in Italian psyche from childhood
By Antonella Ciancio
ROME, June 17 (Reuters) - Italy complained to the European Union on Thursday over the impact of stricter food labelling on confectionary products, which some Italians fear could lead to the death of the world-famous Nutella chocolate spread.
The European Parliament on Wednesday voted for a draft proposal which toughens mandatory nutritional information on food labels with the aim to fight rising levels of obesity in Europe. [ID:nLDE65F2AR]
Italian media on Thursday said products like the Nutella hazelnut spread could "disappear" from Italian culinary culture under the proposed rules, which limit advertising of foodstuffs that exceed specific amounts of salt, sugar and fat.
"The Battle for Nutella Goes to Europe," headlined La Stampa, one of many newspapers which raised the spectre of losing the spread that is embedded in the Italian psyche from childhood.
In fact, one of Nutella's most well-known advertising slogans is "What kind of world would it be without Nutella".
Agriculture and Food Minister Giancarlo Galan slammed the proposal as "nonsense" and wrote a tough-worded letter to Brussels asking for a softer approach.
"Sometimes, the strict application of rules ... reveals their stupidity," Galan told reporters.
Nutella producer Ferrero -- which also makes Kinder chocolate eggs for children and the high-end Ferrero Rocher sweets -- said the EU plans could dampen "the most healthy and genuine pleasures".
In a statement, Ferrero Vice President Paolo Fulci said EU rules should not be allowed "to affect the most intimate aspects of private life." Ferrero is one of Italy's richest and most successful family-owned companies.
The proposal has to be approved by all EU governments and is unlikely to be finalised before 2012. All indications are it will have a rocky road in Italy.
According to the draft rules, food companies would have to label the energy, sugar, salt and fat content of their foodstuffs on the front of packages, with protein, unsaturated fats and fibre added to the list.
After much industry lobbying however, EU lawmakers rejected proposals for mandatory "traffic light" labels on certain convenience foods and soft drinks, with red, amber or green colour codes showing the relative healthiness of the product.
(Editing by Philip Pullella and Mark Heinrich)
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