Food Law News - EU - 2010

FSA Letter (LRM/006/097), 7 June 2010

LABELLING - European Commission’s Proposal for a Food Information Regulation - FSA Update on Discussions in Council Working Group meetings under the Spanish Presidency.

Since the previous FSA letter of the 11 January 2010 Council Working Group meetings have continued under the Spanish Presidency. The meetings held on 11/12 January and 22 February discussed general labelling issues, the 9 February meeting examined the nutrition labelling aspects while the meeting held on 30/31 March and 11 May considered both aspects. The meeting scheduled for the 21 April was cancelled due to the travel disruption caused by the volcanic ash from Iceland.

General labelling issues

Discussions in Council have focused on the areas of responsibilities (Article 8), distance selling (Article 15), and date marks (Article 25) as well as a number of other technical issues. There is agreement that responsibilities are covered within the framework of existing legislation (the general food law). However, further consideration is being given on how best to clarify responsibility requirements relating to information provision through the food chain.

We have highlighted a number of technical issues which stakeholders have raised with us. These included the need to be able to continue to sell certain foods by number, appropriate net quantity declarations and the definition of ‘use by’ date. The need for greater clarity on the application of ‘use by’ dates has been recognised and is expected to be considered further at future meetings.

Proposals on distance selling and the idea of consumers not being charged by distance sellers to provide mandatory food information have received a favourable reaction. It is hoped that greater legal certainty will be included to clearly exempt charities and one off events from the labelling requirements.

There has still been little discussion on the information to be presented when Country of Origin declarations are provided. Further discussions are expected to clarify and refine how any provisions will apply.

Nutritional labelling of foods

The list of mandatory nutrients has been further discussed, with Member States refining their views on the key nutrients to be provided. There is growing support for the concept of providing nutrition information as a meaningful per portion / consumption unit in addition to the information provided per 100g in the mandatory nutrition declaration. However, Member States are seeking clarity on the meaning of the portion or consumption unit.

Discussions on additional voluntary schemes have continued and focused on developing a suitable frame work for assessing schemes used on the European market.

The Spanish Presidency has also developed proposals to reorder the nutrition Articles to separate and clarify which provisions relate to mandatory requirements and which relate to information which can be provided on a voluntary basis.

Next Steps

The European Parliament is continuing its consideration of the proposal. All three of the European Parliament Committees responsible for this dossier (AGRI, IMCO and ENVI) have now voted on amendments. The ENVI report is expected to be considered by the European Parliament as a whole in a plenary meeting during June.

The proposal is on the agenda of the Employment, Social Policy and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) Meeting on the 8 June for a policy debate on some of the technical issues in the proposal. The final working group meeting under the Spanish Presidency is scheduled to be held on the 22 June. This is likely to consider the outcome of the Parliament’s plenary vote and seek to consolidate the work undertaken by the Presidency before handing the file over to the incoming Belgian Presidency.

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