21.04.2011

European Parliament sets out ‘clearer rules’ on food labelling

Food labels on packaging should include mandatory nutritional information, according to new rules from the European Parliament.

The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee amended draft EU legislation today (19 April) with the aim of ensuring labels do not mislead and that they provide information that helps consumers make informed choices about the food they eat. The MEPs agreed that key nutritional information, such as energy content, and amounts of fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt, must be indicated in a legible tabular form on the back of the packaging.

‘Trans-fats’

To the list of nutritional information proposed, MEPs added artificial trans-fats – currently part of a Department of Health drive to be eradicated by the end of 2011. The required information would have to be expressed per 100g or per 100ml, as well as per portion, and could also be accompanied by guideline daily amounts. The draft legislation, voted at the second reading by the committee, would change existing rules on the information that is compulsory on all labels – such as name, list of ingredients, ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ dates.

‘Binding rules’

To ensure the labels are legible, the MEPs said that a list of wide factors needed to be taken to account by the Commission, which will have to establish binding rules. For instance, the origin of certain foods, such as beef, honey and olive oil must already be stated on the label. MEPs also said that meat labels should indicate where the animal was born, reared and slaughtered. In addition, meat from slaughter without stunning, should be labelled as such and meat consisting of combined meat parts must be labelled ‘formed meat’, according to MEPs.
Elsewhere, the committee felt that alcoholic drinks should be exempted from the new rules. MEPs argued that the issue of ‘alcopops’ could not be addressed until they had been defined. They also approved exemptions for gift packages, seasonal confectionery, and non pre-packed food intended for immediate consumption.

Timeframe

Once the legislation is adopted, food businesses would have three years to adapt to the rules. They would also have two additional years to apply the rules on the nutritional declaration.


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