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Euro-MPs opt for clearer food labelling rules

17 March 2010, 13:21 CET

The European Parliament's Environment Committee on Tuesday approved draft legislation on clearer and more informative new food labelling rules which require new information on energy content and nutritional value.

The Environment Committee MEPs approved the report drafted by Renate Sommer with 52 votes in favour, 2 against and 5 abstentions after voting on almost 800 amendments. Food labels should give information on energy content and nutritional value, but they must not mislead, and must be made easier to understand, so as to enable consumers to make informed choices, said Environment Committee MEPs on Tuesday.

The draft legislation, approved after 18 months of debate, aims to modernise, simplify and clarify food labelling within the EU. It would make minor changes to existing rules on information that is compulsory on all labels, such as name, list of ingredients, "best before" or "use by" date, specific conditions of use, and add a requirement to list key nutritional information. The committee added that showing the country of origin should also be mandatory in some cases. However, MEPs voted against imposing EU-wide use of a "traffic light" system to show important nutrient amounts.

They did agree that the regulation should lay down only general rules on how information should be displayed, but not prescribe any specific system. This would enable Member States to adopt or retain national labelling rules.

Mandatory nutrition information

All mandatory nutrition information, such as energy content, and amounts of fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugar and salt, should be given on the front of the pack. But since energy content is the most important item for consumers, MEPs added specific rules to guarantee its visibility. They also added to the list proteins, fibre and natural and artificial transfats.

Clear labelling of "imitated food”

MEPs strengthened the rules to ensure that consumers are not misled by the presentation of food packaging. Foods should not be labelled in a way that could create the impression that they are a different food and where an ingredient has been replaced, this should be clearly stated on the label.

Mandatory country of origin labelling

MEPs want the country of origin to be stated for meat, poultry, dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables and other single-ingredient products as well as for meat, poultry and fish when used as an ingredient in processed food.

No nutritional declaration for alcoholic beverages

MEPs voted to exclude alcoholic beverages from the mandatory nutritional declaration requirement.

Entry into force

To give the industry enough time to adapt to the new rules, the regulation would enter into force 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal, but the rules on nutrition labelling would take effect 3 years thereafter. For food business operators with fewer than 100 employees and an annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total under €5 million they would take effect 5 years thereafter.

Parliament's first reading in plenary session is planned for the end of May. The Council will then have to adopt its position, before the proposal is again debated in the Environment Committee.

Provision of food information to consumers (repeal. Directives 90/496/EEC and 2000/13/EC) - European Parliament Legislative Observatory

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