Food Law News - EU - 2010

FSA Interested Parties Letter (LRM/006/097), 11 January 2010

LABELLING - European Commission’s Proposal for a Food Information Regulation - Update on Discussions in Council Working Group meetings and progress report to December Agriculture and Fisheries Council

Since my previous letter of the 29 October 2009 there have been two further Council Working Group meetings under the Swedish Presidency (13 November and 8 December). The Presidency progress report was submitted to the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 14 December and can be downloaded from the following url:

In their progress report the Swedish Presidency have highlighted some of the Articles which they consider to be agreed subject to any consequential changes which may be necessary as a result of redrafting the Annexes (Articles 3-7, 10-12, 16, 18, 19, 23, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 36, 39, 40, 42, 43, 49).

General labelling issues

There have been useful discussions on distance selling, date marking, and the details of the exemption for alcohol from some of the labelling requirements. These have included the difficult issue of the responsibilities of businesses in the food chain. Opinion remains divided within Council as to the best approach, but there is now a better understanding of the issue and work is progressing to find an appropriate way forward.

There has also been discussion on the issue of clarity with some Member States raising the issue of medical foods and a potential difficulty in applying the minimum font size because of the additional information requirements for these foods. There will be further discussion on this issue and this may be linked to future discussions on what would constitute a sensible exemption from the minimum font size for small packs.

A proposal to amend the exemption for distillates from allergen labelling requirements in annex II has additionally been discussed. There was a positive response to the suggestion that it should be clear that when the distillates are used in other foods there is not a need to label the milk, nuts or egg from which the distillate is derived however the final wording in the Regulation requires further consideration.

Member States have also supported a provision to establish common commencement dates for measures made under the Regulation although this would not apply in cases of urgency.

Nutritional labelling of foods

The list of mandatory nutrients has been further discussed. In relation to the expression of the nutrition information it has been generally agreed that providing information per 100g or 100ml is preferred as this would allow comparison between products. Consideration has also been given to whether the nutrition information may be given on a per portion only basis where products are packaged and sold as a single portion. This matter is likely to be discussed further in future working groups.

Although many Member States have suggested that the mandatory nutrition information should appear in one location there is support for allowing the repetition of some of this information elsewhere on the packaging. The nature of the information and presentation of information, in additional voluntary schemes, allowing the nutrition declaration has been discussed, with many Member States supporting an approach based around harmonised criteria or principles.

The foods listed in Annex IV which would be exempted from mandatory nutrition labelling have also been discussed. The Commission has confirmed that in their opinion foods such as cheese, ham and bacon would not be exempted from mandatory nutrition labelling as they contain multiple ingredients.

Non prepacked foods

The issue of non prepacked food has been further considered in relation to their mandatory information requirements. Member States are supportive of mandating allergen information but prefer to leave the other aspects to national rules. There is however, some support for allowing a degree of flexibility on the information requirements for non prepacked foods including catering. There has been discussion on the amount of information which must be provided given the particular catering settting. Member States have been considering whether voluntary declarations should be limited to certain nutrients (e.g. energy or energy plus fat, saturates, sugars and salt). This issue will be further addressed under the Spanish Presidency.

Next Steps

The Spanish Presidency have provided an indication of their plans for Council Working Group meetings during their term and are anticipating holding 9 days of meetings with the first being held over two days on the 11th and 12th of January.

The European Parliament is continuing to consider the proposal, with discussions underway in three of its Committees. Votes on amendments proposed by the committees are expected in the first quarter of 2010.

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