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EU labelling

EU signs off on new labelling rules

Food manufacturers will have to start preparing to change their packaging after MEPs voted in favour of new labelling rules yesterday in the European Parliament. Small to medium-sized businesses might also need to re-think their finances as they are expected to be hit most by the cost of labelling changes, reports FoodNavigator. There is also disappointment that some of the changes did not go far enough, with alcoholic beverages exempt and no front-of-pack requirement for nutrition labelling, according to John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy.

However, that agreement was reached at all is seen as a success in itself, considering the doomed path of the recent novel food debate, which failed in conciliation.

Once the legislation is published in the EU Official Journal – expected in October – food companies have three years to adapt to most of the rules, but five years for the new nutrition declaration.

New EU food label requirements in brief:

Nutritional breakdown must be indicated – a standard label including information about energy content, fats, sugar and salt is set to become mandatory for pre-packed food sold across the EU. The nutritional data will have to be grouped in tabular form on the packaging and expressed per 100g or per 100ml. Food producers can also include Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) – a system already widely used – or use the term “per portion”, once the European Commission has defined portion sizes.

There was reportedly some disappointment that Parliament didn’t do away with kilojoule (kj) on labels, as consumers tend to prefer calorie content (kcal).

There is scope for businesses to provide more information than the mandatory minimum – for example, the “traffic light” colour-coding scheme used by many UK retailers can continue.

Most pre-packed meat to have country of origin – beef currently has country-of-origin labelling, but the plan is to extend that to poultry, pork and lamb too. It currently also applies to fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, olive oil and honey.

MEPs also wanted the country of origin to be marked on dairy produce and on processed meat such as sausages and ready meals, but EU ministers rejected that proposal. The European Commission will study the feasibility of widening country of origin labelling to other foods.

Allergenic substances must be indicated

Lettering must conform to regulation size – A minimum font size of 1.2mm has been set for the lettering – or 0.9mm for small packets – so that the labels are clear.

Type of vegetable oil to be indicated – eg palm oil

Imitation foods – eg oil-based cheese – to be clearly marked

The main exemptions from the mandatory labelling system will be for small-scale traditional producers and for fresh produce that is not pre-packed.

EU negotiators decided that small-scale producers should not face the additional administrative cost of adopting the new labels.

Meat from animals slaughtered by means other than stunning – for example kosher or halal meat – will not have to be labelled as such. But MEPs will consider the issue again in a review of the EU’s animal welfare strategy.

Source: BBC News; FoodNavigator.com

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