Final verdict reached on new EU labelling rules

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition European union

Food manufacturers need to start preparing to change their packaging after MEPs voted in favour of new labelling rules yesterday in the European Parliament.

Small to medium-sized businesses might also need to re-think their finances as they are expected to be hit most by the cost of labelling changes.

There is also disappointment that some of the changes did not go far enough, with alcoholic beverages exempt and no front-of-pack requirement for nutrition labelling, according to John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy.

However, that agreement was reached at all is seen as a success in itself, considering the doomed path of the recent novel food debate, which failed in conciliation.

Once the legislation is published in the EU Official Journal - expected in October - food companies have three years to adapt to most of the rules, but five years for the new nutrition declaration.

So manufacturers will need to change their labels accordingly, said Renate Sommer, European Parliament Rapporteur.

She told that this included a mandatory nutrition box for those companies who had not already provided this information, highlighting allergens in the ingredient list and script in a minimum font size.

As a general rule, for mandatory information, the font size will be 1.2mm but this in particular is expected to have a financial impact on SMEs, which account for more than 80 per cent of the European food sector.

Sommer said SME’s often have several languages on a single package and the new sizing may mean they have to introduce different packaging for different areas.

However, overall she expected the additional cost of labelling to be passed on to the consumer.

There was also disappointment that Parliament didn’t do away with kilojoule (kj) on labels, as consumers tend to prefer calorie content (kcal).

Despite “great support” Sommer said this didn’t succeed as the Commission and member states already have an international agreement for the double labelling of kj plus kcal.

She added that the new rules should offer the food industry “more legal certainty, less bureaucracy and better legislation”.

The key points

Energy content and amounts of fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt must all be stated in a legible tabular form - together and in the same field of vision – and expressed per 100g or per 100ml, but can additionally be expressed per portion.

Allergenic substances must be highlighted in the ingredient list and country of origin labelling (COOL) has been extended to fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goat and poultry. This is on top of foods - such as beef, honey, olive oil and fresh fruit and vegetables already on labels.

COOL could also be extended to foods such as meat when used as an ingredient, milk or unprocessed foods but the Commission must first do impact assessments.

Parliament approved the labelling rules by 606 votes to 46, with 26 abstentions.

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