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The Irish Examiner reports on efforts by European food retailers opposing legislation to be considered by the European Commission that would mandate new labels educating consumers about nutrition and obesity.

Feargal Quinn, the founder of Ireland’s legendary Superquinn chain of supermarkets as well as the current president of EuroCommerce, which represents European food chains, argues that mandated labeling changes do not make sense. “If people do not understand about good nutrition, they will not benefit from labeling,” Quinn tells the Examiner. “For example the amount of calories we eat has not changed in the past 30 years but we are taking less exercise.”

Quinn also argues that by allowing retailers to take individualized approaches to consumer education, it will result in a better-informed consumer population. “Competition between retailers is the best way as when one retailer sees another doing it better, he will improve. Standards will be far higher this way,” Quinn says.

KC's View:
We try never to disagree with Feargal Quinn, because we’ll generally end up being wrong.

Private industry can almost always do these things better without government mandates. But where we see a disconnect is when government actually prevents private companies from being progressive about their labeling. For example, why can’t companies do their own testing of beef to ascertain that it is BSE-free, and then label the meat as such if it passes the test? This would seem to make perfect sense, but the government won’t allow it.