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11 February 2008 : The significance of the EU labelling proposal




The significance of the EU labelling proposal

The European Commission proclaimed that proposals for updating and improvement EU labelling requirements for food and drink had been finalized.  Generally the texts simply combine the existing provisions, meanwhile, several important new rules are proposed.

Referring to the views of Owen Warnock, partner and food law expert at international law firm Eversheds, there are some interesting affects caused by the proposal as the following table:

Affects caused by the proposal


1. Reducing variation

Each member state adopts its own laws to implement a directive. However, a series of directives will be replaced with a single regulation that is considered a significant change.  Accordingly with the proposals, the variation will be decreased from one member state to another.  When the new law is finalized; it will be enforced across the whole of the EU which is expected to be simpler for food businesses to understand what rules apply to them.

2. Front-of pack-controversy

According to Owen Warnock, the introduction of front-of-pack labelling of key nutrients is the most controversial proposal.  UK's Food Standards Agency prefers Traffic lights approach, meanwhile the proposals adopts the 'guideline daily amounts' (GDA).

It would be necessary to present fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugar, salt and energy content per 100g or 100ml and also by reference to GDAs.  Providing per portion information would be an optional. 
The rules would also allow to provide a long list of more nutrients including, trans fats that would be permitted for the first time. 

It seems that most of the food industry will accept the proposal to use GDAs, on the other hand the European Consumers' Organisation, BEUC, is lobbying hard for traffic lights.

In a startling proposal, each Member State would be provided the opportunity, by the draft legislation, to develop its own alternative front-of-pack nutrition labelling systems.  At the same time, the EU's main nutrition labelling system could be always applied by manufacturers or retailers, these other schemes would offer food businesses an alterative approach to discharge the compulsion to offer front-of-pack labelling

There has been a deep concern among the food industry that the potential anti-competitive effect will be occurred.  Owen Warnock also explained that “Whilst the proposal apparently contemplates the European institutions having some degree of control over labelling systems introduced by particular Member States, the potential indirect barriers to trade are all too obvious in a case where a particular alternative scheme finds favour in a particular country or with a certain major retailer.”


3. Plugging the gap on allergens

For the first time, the proposal identifies that a minimum print size (3mm in height size) would be specified for food labels. 

It is believed that a gap in the current rules on allergens which only apply to the labelling of pre packed food will be plugged, because food that is not prepacked, or that is sold in restaurants and catering establishments, would also need to be accompanied by a declaration of any allergenic ingredient.


4. Precision on provenance

A further significant proposal involves much more precision in the rules forbidding misleading indications of the origin or provenance of a food - including the situation where a principal ingredient of a food comes from a different country than the country of manufacture.
Not all the details of this proposal have yet been finalised, but it will be an important one for many food businesses.
For some it will help to protect them from unfair competition from products which are less clearly 'from' a particular place than one might expect, for others these rules may have an impact on the location chosen for factories and the suppliers use to provide key ingredients.

5. A long debate ahead


At the moment the Commission has merely published a preliminary draft text. This is only the first stage in what will no doubt be a long debate about the future of European food labelling requirements.

Source: http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/ng.asp?n=83054&m=2FLG206&idP=1&c=ioibcssowdseqfi&idcat=0