This time last year, I covered a review of forthcoming labelling changes that were predicted to have a significant impact on the industry as a whole, and indeed, 2004 has been a busy and confusing year. Allergens and genetically modified organisms topped the agenda in terms of immediate problems to be overcome. Meanwhile the accession of 10 new countries to the European Union presented a wealth of opportunities, as well as a serious labelling challenge for those companies having to market small packaged foods in the 20 official languages!
We've seen another year pass without significant progress in either health claims or food fortification. The regulation on nutrition and health claims came to a grinding halt when the European Parliament was re-elected following the accession in May. Subsequently, it has appeared back on the agenda at parliamentary level, but expect a long haul of negotiations on this contentious subject.
The addition of vitamins and minerals to food is expected to follow in the shadow of the nutrition and health claims regulation. The key common factor in these two proposed regulations is the concept of 'nutritional profiles' which are generally considered to be unworkable within the context that they are presented in both these proposals.
The Food Standards Agency has now published a white paper on nutrition profiling, proposing the use of 'traffic lights' to attempt to make it easier for consumers to recognise the levels of salt, fat and sugar in foods. This proposal is currently out for consultation until February 25. This is a significant step forward in terms of developing nutrient profiling, and is highly likely to be taken into account in discussions of both of the aforementioned regulatory proposals.
What else will 2005 bring? Full traceability compliance under 178/2002 came in this month, completion of the flavourings assessment by July, and full compliance with allergen labelling by the November 25. At least, that's what's scheduled -- who knows where we'll be in 12 months time with the various proposals on the table. Happy new year!
Jean Feord Business Manager
Leatherhead Food International.