MEPs voted in a package of proposals in the second reading of the food information regulation, with 57 votes in favour, 4 against and 1 abstention.
They agreed that key nutritional information such as energy content, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt, must be indicated in tabular form on the back of the pack and expressed per 100g/ml and also per portion.
In addition to this established list the MEPs added trans fats, unsaturated fat with trans-isomer fatty acids produced through partial hydrogenation, which raise the risk of coronary heart disease.
However CIAA has pointed out that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) established in 2004 that the intake of trans fats in most EU member states was already below the WHO recommendation maximum of 1 per cent of total energy, leading it to conclude that they are do not pose a public health hazard.
“The CIAA supports the Council’s view that trans-fats should be labelled on a voluntary basis,” it said in a statement late last night.
Back to front
The ENVI MEPs said the eight nutrients on back-of-pack may accompanied by guidance daily amounts (GDA), the industry’s favoured format, and energy content may be duplicated on front of pack.
The CIAA has focused in on the portrayal of energy by portion in addition to per 100ml/g, saying: “This will create an unnecessary duplication of information for energy per 100g/100ml because this information is already listed (along with other nutrients) in the nutrient declaration (usually back-of-pack) for comparison purposes.
“Moreover, food manufacturers have been providing voluntary information for energy FOP per portion using the GDA scheme for a number of years.”
The federation referred to consumer research that indicates information by portion is useful for making informed choices. “Industry calls on MEPs to prevent duplication ‘on pack’ in their Plenary vote in July,” is said.
The MEPs also voted in several measures to safeguard legibility of mandatory information, including a minimum font size of 1.5mm for mandatory information, or 0.9mm for packs under 80cm2 in size; clear labelling of allergens; and the freezing date on fish, meat and poultry products, but not composite foods.
The CIAA said that the exemptions for small packs are welcome, as well as factors such as font type, contrast, line and character pitch. However it is still in opposition to a minimum font size – and if one were to be set it should be no more than 1mm, it says.
Trilogues and beyond
The Parliament, Council and Commission will now enter a series of triglogues over the food information legislation, the first of which is scheduled for 10 May.
The Parliament said in a statement that, following yesterday’s vote, rapporteur Renate Sommer now has a strong mandate to enter into negotiations with to achieve a second-reading agreement with Council ahead of Parliament's plenary vote in July.
The CIAA , meanwhile, says it “now looks to the institutions to reach a balanced agreement, in view of the proposal’s original aim, i.e. to combine and simplify existing legislation, and to improve consumer understanding.”
Saying that the Committee result seems to bring in provisions beyond this basic goal, it is calling for “a more pragmatic approach to ensure that food labels are not overcomplicated for the consumer, and, at the same time, that the final outcome presents a workable piece of legislation for food manufacturers, helping to promote the competitiveness of Europe’s food and drink industry.”
Once the legislation is adopted food companies will have three years to put the new rules into practice, plus an additional two years for the rules on nutritional declaration.