Industry salutes ‘deletion’ of national labelling schemes

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Ciaa, European union

The rapporteur’s report on the food information proposal has elicited a positive initial reaction from industry, but some sticking points still remain.

German MEP Renate Sommer’s report for the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (Envi) committee was published in English last week. Of the 143 amendments, the majority were clarifications and wording changes.

But Susanne Döring, director of consumer information at the CIAA, told that there are a handful of important amendments. For instance, Sommer deleted the possibility for national schemes to co-exist alongside an agreed EU-wide scheme.

This move is welcomed by the CIAA, the trade body that represents European food and drink manufacturers, which has argued that co-existence of national schemes could harm the EU’s single market, and cause more confusion amongst consumers.

Döring said of the report: “In general we welcome it, it goes in the right direction.”

The CIAA’s guidance daily amounts (GDA) scheme is along the same tracks as the system preferred by the Commission in its proposal.

Amongst the areas of contention that remain, however, she noted that Sommer prefers to give the proportions of calories, fat, saturates, sugar and salt contained within a food or beverage per 100g or per 100ml.

CIAA, on the other hand, prefers the information to be presented by portion.

In addition, Sommer would only make it mandatory to give energy (in kcals) on the front-of-pack, with the others listed on the back. However, CIAA supports voluntary energy front of pack with at a minimum energy, sugars, fat, saturated fat and sodium on the back of pack.

Font size stipulation

From discussions at the Serving Consumers session at last week’s CIAA’s Congress, in which Basil Mathioudakis, head of the Commission’s directorate general for health and consumers, took part, it was apparent that the Commission is wedded to the idea of a minimum font size for mandatory information.

The proposed 3mm minimum has stirred concern from industry, since smaller products would have trouble accommodating it. It could have serious design implications and dwarf the branding on products – thus confusing consumers who are seeking familiar products.

Kate Trollope of EU Food Law, who chaired the session, said: “The Commission will not drop the idea of a minimum font size.”

The indication is that a definition will be forthcoming, but a size will​ be necessary.

Progress to law

Döring noted that some of Sommer’s amendments seek to take controversial issues like precise font size out of the debate for now. Since it may take longer to reach agreement on these, the rest of the regulation could progress to publication in the Official Journal more quickly, and the details hammered out between stakeholders afterwards.

Nonetheless, given the length and detail of Sommer’s report and the strong views held by stakeholders, it is unlikely that an agreement will be reached in the coming months.

“We would be glad for a first reading before the summer break,”​ said Döring.

The report will be discussed in the Parliament’s Envi committee on 8th or 9th December.

The CIAA will be compiling full comments for submission to the Parliament in advance of the 15th December deadline.

Related topics: Labelling, Policy, Food labelling

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