To date, the EU Ecolabel scheme has developed criteria for products in the non-food sector.
The Regulation that governs the initiative (66/2010) aims to extend the EU Ecolabel into new product categories including food. However, it stipulates that before extending to the food sector, the practicality of doing so should be thoroughly assessed.
And the feasibility study released last week, requested by the European Commission’s DG Environment in December 2010, indicates that the level of expertise needed to generate Ecolabel criteria for food, feed and drink products is not present in the relevant national authorities and would require significant resources to develop.
The evaluation, undertaken by Oakdene Hollins, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), and the University of Göttingen, also found that additional financial resources would be required to avoid consumer confusion due to the potential conflicts with the organic label and to raise awareness of the EU Ecolabel scheme across Europe, which is currently very low.
Costs burdensome for SMEs
The authors also issue a note of caution about costs of application for the label scheme, which they report may be particularly burdensome for SME-scale food and drink processors.
EU food and drink manufacturing trade body, FoodDrinkEurope, in reaction said that an Ecolabel scheme would mislead rather than inform consumers about the true environmental performance of food products along their lifecycle.
And the industry group is lobbying the EC to listen to the views of food and drink stakeholders, farmers’ groups, the organic sector, environmental and consumer NGOs to maintain the exception of food and drink products from such a labelling scheme.
No EC decision on food groups
A spokesperson for DG Enviromment told FoodNavigator.com that the Commission has “not yet taken a decision on this.”
“We carried out the referenced study as requested in article 6.5 of the EU Ecolabel Regulation (EU) no 66/2010. The next step is for the Commission to seek the opinion of the European Ecolabelling Board (EUEB) on the outcome of the study.
After that, the Commission will decide which food and drink groups, if any, they will put forward for the EU Ecolabel.”
The feasibility report, which can be accessed here, estimates that the environmental impacts of the production and processing of food, feed and drinks make up between 20% and 30% of the total environmental impacts of consumable goods in the EU.