A final deal on EU food labelling legislation is heading towards the finish line with the provisional agreement approved by council yesterday.
Last week there was said to have been a “breakthrough” in negotiations when the draft was agreed but it is only now, with the council’s green light, that more information about this agreement has been revealed.
Among the key elements is mandatory nutrition information on pre-packed foods, minimum font size and the extension of compulsory country of origin labelling.
Stuart Shotton, consultancy services director, FoodChain Europe, told FoodNavigator.com that this should mean, come July, the regulation will be adopted by parliament and published shortly after.
He added: “Although the key milestone is still the July plenary session, this together with the provisional agreement would suggest that the regulations as they stand now, incorporating the provisional agreement, is what we will be seeing as law throughout the EU.”
Once the legislation is adopted and published, food businesses will have three years to adapt to the rules, then two more years to apply the rules on the nutritional declaration.
Under the new rules, the energy value and the amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrates, protein, sugars and salt, which together form the “mandatory nutrition declaration”, must be indicated in the same field of vision per 100g or per 100ml and may, additionally, also be expressed per portion.
There will be a minimum font size of 1.2 mm for all mandatory information to improve legibility.
Compulsory country of origin labelling has been extended to fresh meat from swine, sheep, goat and poultry. The origin of certain foods, such as beef, honey, olive oil and fresh fruit and vegetables must already be stated on the label.
Many MEPs wanted to extend it to more products, such as milk and dairy or meat when used as an ingredient. Instead it was agreed the commission would conduct impact assessments first, to assess the feasibility and potential costs of such labelling requirements.
Allergenic substances must be highlighted in the ingredient list, so that consumers can find the information at first glance.
Vegetable oils’ specific vegetable origin must be indicated so, for example, palm oil can be identified.
Food should not be labelled in a way that could create the impression that they are a different food. Therefore, when an ingredient normally expected has been replaced, it should be clearly stated next to the brand name.
Meat consisting of combined meat parts must be labelled “formed meat”, likewise for “formed fish”.
However, there is no obligation to label trans fats and MEPs did not insist that meat from slaughter without stunning (in accordance with certain religious traditions), must be labelled as such.
The deal, which aims to ensure that food labels become clearer, now needs to be approved by Parliament in a plenary vote scheduled for 5 July.