Regulatory waiting game is almost over

By Julian Hunt

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition labelling, European union

Forget the ongoing domestic debate about front-of-pack nutrition labelling. The real action is in Europe. By the time you read this, the European Parliament's (EP's) Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, ENVI, will have agreed its report on the proposed Food Information Regulation (FIR) firing the starting pistol for a complex negotiation that will impact every reader of Food Manufacture magazine.

The EU regulatory proposals cover more than nutrition labelling. But, even in Europe, it is this topic that has excited most interest among parliamentarians, Member States and lobbyists with the discussions we have been having in the UK for the past five years shaping current debates in Brussels and Strasbourg.

In terms of process, the EP is due to have its first reading of the proposed FIR in June, based on the outcome of the ENVI committee's deliberations. There follows more political negotiation, horse-trading and compromising between the three EU institutions (Council, Parliament and Commission) before a second reading in the Parliament next summer. Then we will have some clarity about the future shape of the legislation that will control all aspects of food labelling.

Given the complexities of that process it would be a brave man that predicted the final outcome. None of us really know what will finally emerge.

UK policy makers now understand that they have no power to regulate on labelling all our efforts on front-of-pack information to date have been made on a voluntary basis by industry.

It's obvious that companies will now want to see what the EU regulation says about front-of-pack labelling before discussing additional enhancements for the UK. That's common sense. It would be premature for anyone to force further changes until Europe decides what must go on a pack and what must be left off.

Julian Hunt is director of communications for the Food and Drink Federation

Related topics: Legal

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