EU a step closer on COOL and nutrition labelling rules

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union European commission

EU member states have reached an “informal agreement” over a raft of key food labelling measures, such as country of origin and nutritional information, ahead of a key meeting next Tuesday.

Consumer ministers from the 27 EU member state are expected to sign off on the draft regulation that appears to give food companies broad discretion on how they display information on food packaging.

Country of origin labelling

Under the provisional agreement, the Council of Europe has backed a voluntary regime for country of origin labelling “except where failure to do so would mislead the consumer”.

But it proposed that current compulsory COOL regulation for beef should be extended to pork, lamb and poultry.

The Council recommended that within three years of introducing the rule, the European Commission should table an evaluation report on extending compulsory COOL to a host of other products, including meat used as an ingredient, milk and milk used as an ingredient, as well as unprocessed foods, single-ingredient products and ingredients that represent more than 50 per cent of a food.

Nutritional information

The body agreed with the European Commission that the labelling of the energy value and the quantities of nutrients - such as fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugars and salt - should be compulsory. But it also suggested extending the obligation to protein.

It added that as a general principle, the energy value and the amounts of these nutrients should be expressed per 100g or per 100ml, but the Council said they could also be indicated as a percentage of reference intakes.

Food business operators were granted scope to “use additional forms of expression or presentation” ​as​long as these do not mislead consumers and are supported by evidence. All elements of nutritional information should also be clustered in the same field of vision.

The proposals, which will be subject to approval by national Ministers, would exempt spirits beers and wines from nutrition labelling rules. Aromatised alcohol beverages and mead would also not be included in this regulation.

But the Council said this ruling should be scrutinised by the Commission within five years of coming into force to decide if the exceptions are still justified.

It added that non-prepacked food should also be exempt from nutrition labelling, unless member states decide otherwise, but that allergens “must always be indicated”.

The Council said that while there was a “strong possibility”​ political agreement would be reached at the bill’s first reading stage on 7 December, the measures would still be subject to scrutiny by the European Parliament at the second reading stage.

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