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EU’s new food labelling rules – what they say in quotes

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By Mike Stones+

17-Feb-2014

As the clock counts down to the EU’s mandatory food labelling rule changes – due to be enforced on December 13 2014  – we chart reaction to the legislation in quotes from people responsible for making sense of the new rules.

Premier Foods, the British Retail Consortium and the technical support firm FoodChain Europe are just three of the organisations represented in our list of key quotes charting the significance of the new rules – and the frustration it has sparked.

Premier Foods

Meanwhile, a speaker from Premier Foods will be joining representatives from Campden BRI, the Trading Standards Institute and law firm DWF for a free, one-hour online seminar on the new rules at 11am GMT on Thursday 20 February.

To help food and drink manufacturers prepare for the new mandatory rules, the Food Manufacture Group is staging  a free, one-hour webinar in association with law firm DWF. Taking part in the online seminar – Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FIR): what you need to know – will be representatives from Premier Foods, Campden BRI, Trading Standards and event sponsor food law firm DWF.

Trading Standards Institute

Speakers include: Alasdair Tucker, head of regulatory affairs at Premier Foods and chairman of the Food and Drink Federation’s Food Law & Labelling Committee; Steve Spice, head of regulatory affairs at Campden BRI; Corinne Lowe, joint lead officer food and nutrition, Trading Standards Institute; and Dominic Watkins, partner and head of food group DWF, on the legal framework surrounding the new legislation.

Reserve your free place at this one-hour webinar, sponsored by DWF, here . There is no limit on the number of registrations. Once registered, you can listen at a later date to the webinar.

 

What they say: 

Simon Flanagan, senior food safety and allergens consultant at Reading Scientific Services

  • “I think everybody will have to change their labels to make them more compliant.”
  • “There is a finite amount of printers and if you haven’t booked yours in advance, there could be problems.”

 

Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s food minister

  • “I will ensure improved labelling is a priority for Scotland’s new food body, when it is established next year. But, in the meantime, it is really important that work is taken forward now to address the frustrating and damaging issue of misleading labelling information.”
  • “I am absolutely determined to tackle the scourge of misleading information. It’s not complicated, it’s incredibly simple; consumers must know what they are eating and where it comes from.

 

Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, BRC

  • “Guidance [about FIR] should have been issued in spring/summer last year. But our understanding is that it is likely to be [issued] around March/April this year, at the same time as the national legislation.”
  • “We have seen a copy of the guidelines and we are working with DEFRA to make it as robust as possible.”

 

Liz Moran, food analyst at Public Analyst Scientific Services

  • FIR will be burdensome: “Not only in the sense that they [food and drink manufacturers] will have to display the information [about energy, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt] , but because some companies will need to have their products analysed.”

 

Jon Poole, chief executive of the Institute of Food Science & Technology

  • “I do feel for the small and micro businesses that do not necessarily have the resource or expertise to interpret and implement the changes.”

 

Lizzie Press, acting general manager, National Pig Association

  • “Considering country of origin labelling was supposed to provide transparency and simplification in order to help consumers make an informed choice when shopping, the agree proposal is now more confusing than ever and will require a great deal of explanation.”
  • “There is potential, therefore, for the label to give the impression that a pig is wholly from the UK, when it was born in another country and has spent only a proportion of its life, such as 10 weeks for a pig, in the country stated on the label.”

 

Alison Sharper, food law adviser, Campden BRI

  • “The legislation says allergens have to be highlighted in the list. I think it is because there have been many product recalls through allergens being missed out.”

 

Steve Spice, head of regulatory affairs at Campden BRI

  • “There are certain aspects of the new regulation that are to be applauded as old pieces of legislation are consolidated and updated but the sheer scale of implementing the Food Information Regulations [FIR] is unprecedented. For some businesses it means converting many thousands of lines in a short period of time and at great expense. We are now in the last year of transition and there are still outstanding issues yet to be decided, this is causing uncertainty for some businesses, particularly small and medium sized ones and we are getting increasing inquiries from our members.”

 

Stuart Shotton, consultancy services director, FoodChain Europe

  • “We don’t know how the rules are going to be enforced. We are using our own interpretation of the EU rules and if the guidance contradicts this, then what does that mean?”
  • “My primary concern is more towards the SME [small- and medium-sized enterprise] types of businesses at the moment, because we are noticing they are finding it hard to put things into place.”
  • “Ultimately, it’s the responsibilty of whoever’s name and address is on the pack.”
  • “You may find that, even though allergens are highlighted, a lot of customers will ask where the information is.”

 

Spokesman, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  • “We produced draft guidance in November last year and have asked all concerned for their comments on our draft. We want our guidance to be helpful to enforcement officers and relevant to the modern day food manufacturing industry.”

 

Alasdair Tucker, head of regulatory affairs at Premier Foods and chairman of the Food and Drink Federation’s Food Law & Labelling Committee

  • “The biggest overhaul of food labelling for over 25 years [will result from the FIR changes].”
  • “Meeting the needs of the consumer is at the heart of changes.”
  • “While in essence, the changes required by regulation should be evolution rather than revolution the devil is in the detail. Subtle changes the consumer may see require a more fundamental review of the collation and presentation of information on behalf of the manufacturer.”
  • “We are on a journey and if we compare it to a new-born baby, we are at the toddler stage. Not a lot the information has yet got out to the consumer but there is plenty of activity going on behind the scenes. (September 2013)

 

Dominic Watkins, partner and head of food group, DWF

  • “Food labelling law is vitally important. It governs what information must be on the packaging and where. While food and drink manufacturers deeply understand the tried and tested labelling rules, the new rules change the goalposts.”

 

Meanwhile, is your business ready for the rule changes? Compare your progress with that made by other firms in our quiz. 

Survey

Is your food and drink business ready for the FIR rule changes, due to be enforced on December 13 2014?
     
     
     
     
     

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1 comment

Businesses confused?

What do you expect when Government is divided? For instance, responsibility for durability dates is by Defra, the FSA, the DoH and the Rural Payments Agency (for olive oil). The FIC is not complex (I was involved in drafting it). The UK's FIR is a lawyer's bonus. It is the mass of vertical rules that will cause problems.

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Posted by Bob Salmon
17 February 2014 | 22h41

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