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MEPs reject inclusion of food in Eco-label amendments

By Jane Byrne , 19-Feb-2009
Last updated on 19-Feb-2009 at 12:49 GMT2009-02-19T12:49:43Z

European Commission proposals to include food products in an extended Eco-label scheme have been rejected by MEPs this week.

Although the European Parliament’s environmental committee voted in favour of bringing new goods within the scope of the directive, which currently covers more than 3,000 products, like detergents and paper, it decided to leave out processed food.

Last July, the Commission introduced new proposals to extend the environmental labelling scheme to food products on the basis that the food industry has “one of the greatest environmental impacts in terms of production and consumption.”

Criteria definition

However the MEPs argue that the Commission needs to undertake a study to establish whether reliable environmental criteria can be defined for food as well as fisheries and aquaculture products, prior to their inclusion in the environmental labelling directive.

Food industry body, the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA), has continually voiced its opposition to the extension to the Eco-label regulation to food products, claiming the scheme would mislead rather than inform consumers about the sustainability of food products as it fails to take account of the life cycle principal.

The CIAA also suggests that the Commission should initiate a representative multi stakeholder process, comprising all relevant food chain players, to determine the best strategy for assessing and communicating to EU consumers how ‘green’ a food product is.

Green overload

But with so many logos currently in use on food and drink labels including organic symbols, the Fairtrade mark, sustainable sourcing stamps and carbon footprint indicators, are consumers suffering from green logo overload?

Participants at the CIAA congress in Brussels last November were split about how valuable the proliferation of labels is to shoppers in their purchasing decisions, with some of the speakers arguing that even though many of the logos are supported by a strict set of standards or code, the consumer may not be totally aware of what they stand for.

Incompatible system

However, the congress speakers were generally resistant to the idea of bundling food in with other consumer goods bearing the Eco-label, with Pekka Pesonsen, secretary general of COPA-COGECA, calling the Commission’s proposal “simplistic and fragmented, and not good for food.”

In addition, it was argued at the congress that the rapid changing of recipes, formulation and sourcing would make the system incompatible with some of the facets of modern food provision.

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