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Industry fights EU proposals for unnecessary labelling

By Rod Addy , 02-Jul-2010
Last updated on 02-Jul-2010 at 20:21 GMT

Food industry trade groups are uniting to fight EU labelling proposals that would heap extra work and costs on food processors and potentially confuse consumers.

Compulsory country of origin labelling (COOL) proposals for meat and fish ingredients in processed foods were supported by members of the European Parliament (MEPs) last month, subject to an industry impact assessment.

The Agricultural and Fisheries Council is now debating COOL. Eventually, a final vote by all MEPs will be taken in early 2011.

Ian Farley, technical and legislative manager for the British Frozen Foods Federation (BFFF), which is joining other trade groups in voicing the same concerns, said: "To insist that country of origin labelling should be compulsory for, say, frozen ready meals could make life very difficult when it comes to sourcing and packaging."

Farley also said that other proposals to force frozen food manufacturers to display date of freezing on their products' food packaging under an EU Food Information Regulation would be expensive and unnecessary.

"It's the Best Before date that matters. To start putting extra dates on packs doesn't really add anything for the consumer, so that's one that we would like to fall by the wayside."

He also questioned the logic of the proposals that singled out frozen food firms. "You'd need to invest in extra equipment to print the extra dates and there would be a question of where you put them on pack. It's not something most people would want to do."

Alongside proposals to ditch traffic light labelling on food products, MEPs waived through the date of freezing proposals in a vote last month. "It went through as one of a block of amendments by the EU environment, public health and food safety committee (ENVI)," said Farley.

"I think it's of benefit to the consumer to keep things simple and there is a serious danger of providing more and more information all the time."

The BFFF and other trade groups will air their views through the European food and drink trade body CIAA.

Farley did agree with FIR proposals for compulsory display of seafood product weight without glaze. Most UK processors did that already, he said. In the past, some processors' pack weights had included glaze weight, which in some cases had made up a third of total product weight.

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