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New EU food labelling laws will cost food firms, says consultant

By Anne Bruce , 08-Jul-2011
Last updated on 08-Jul-2011 at 15:27 GMT2011-07-08T15:27:52Z

New EU food labelling laws will cost food firms, says consultant

The UK food industry has given the European Parliament's (EP's) final agreement on food labelling a mixed reception, with one consultant reckoning label changes cost £7,000 per product.

Passed by 606 votes to 46, the new Food Information Regulation (FIR) is expected to be published in the EU official journal in October. Food firms will have three years thereafter to adopt the new rules.

The FIR extends country-of-origin labelling to cover fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry, closing a current loophole that allows producers to label meat as British if it were only processed in the UK.

Under existing EU rules, the origins of certain foods, including beef, honey and olive oil, already have to be shown on the label.

COOL labelling

East Midlands Labour MEP Glenis Willmott said this was good news for the UK meat industry as it would help shoppers choose meat from British farms.

"Most people would agree that just because a sausage is minced in Britain doesn't make it a British sausage. Yet that's exactly what manufacturers can currently claim,” she said.

The European Commission (EC) will also submit a report within two years to examine the possibility of extending mandatory country-of-origin (COOL) labelling to meat used as a composite ingredient in processed food.

Within three years the EC will examine the same question in regard to other types of meat, as well as milk, milk used as an ingredient, unprocessed foods, single-ingredient products and ingredients that represent more than 50% of a food.

Labels on packaged food across Europe will have to give energy, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugar, protein and salt levels in a tabular form, expressed on a per 100g or 100ml basis. Traffic light colour coding has not been made mandatory.

The new rules state that information on allergens must also be given for non-packaged foods.

Costly changes

Stuart Shotton, consultancy services director at advisor FoodChain Europe told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the changes would be costly for UK food manufacturers, and estimated the price for changed packaging at around £7,000 per product, in addition to training costs for staff.

Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said that the FDF welcomed compromises that had been brokered between MEPs and the EC.

She said: “We appreciate the effort that has gone into finding compromises with the industry on this legislation. A lot of issues have been taken on board and the reforms are to be phased in over two, three or five years, although a lot of uncertainties remain.”

Phasing-in of the new requirements would also allow manufacturers to plan packaging changes well in advance, Gallani said. But the FDF remained concerned about possible future mandatory extension of country-of-origin labelling to meat.

Gallani added this would create extra costs for food manufacturers, without delivering additional food safety benefit for consumers.

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