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Confectioners give cautious backing to EU labelling vote

By Jane Byrne , 18-Jun-2010

Representatives of Europe wide confectionery, biscuit and chocolate makers have given a cautious backing to the much-anticipated EU parliament vote on amendments to the proposed food information regulation, which has come out in favour of industry supported GDAs.

David Zimmer, secretary general of Caobisco, in a statement issued to ConfectioneryNews.com, said that while the body is closely reviewing the details of the vote and its implications for its members he said that it is encouraging that the EP has recognised the limitations of the traffic lights approach to labelling.

Ever since the proposal for the new regulation was published in January 2008 there has been hot debate in Brussels and across member states about the best mandatory system for displaying nutritional information.

Although a host of formats already exist across the bloc, two have dominated discussions: the food industry-developed Guidance Daily Amount (GDA) scheme, and the colour-coded traffic-light scheme.

On Wednesday, MEPs voted on an amendments proposal tabled by Environment committee rapporteur Renate Sommer and adopted by the committee. After a lively debate, they strongly signalled that they would like to see the GDA method as the sole front-of-pack scheme.

According to Zimmer, the traffic light scheme "is of course over-simplistic and does not afford the opportunity for consumers to make a considered choice within food categories."

MEPs also cast votes on some other contentious points to the proposed regulations including that GDA values should be given per 100g or 100ml, energy, fat, saturates, sugar and salt GDAs should be on the front-of-pack, but protein, fibres and transfats should be elsewhere on the pack and that nutrient profiling should be reinstated.

But Zimmer maintains that concerns continue to surround the issue of nutrition profiling which he claims: “brings little of a positive nature to the debate and indeed could hinder innovation in a number of food sectors.”

Nutrient profiles define what products can make claims relating to nutritional content, based on their levels of fat, sugar or salt. The idea is that a product that is exceptionally high in one of these nutrients that should be consumed in moderation, it may not be labelled a ‘low in fat’, say, or ‘low in sugar’.

A statement from the Parliament late yesterday in relation to the next stage of the regulatory process said that agreement between Parliament and Council is unlikely at the first reading stage, meaning a second reading will be necessary.

Even once the regulation is agreed and implemented, large food firms will have three years to comply and smaller firms five years.