Industry slams European Commission’s proposals to change food labelling

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European parliament European commission

Proposals to change the rules on food labelling have come under fire from all sides.

The European Commission (EC) has suggested a range of measures including compulsory back-of-pack nutrition labelling; voluntary front-of-pack nutritional labelling; and mandatory country-of-origin labelling for ingredients.

According to Helen Gillen, food labelling manager at the Food and Drink Federation, the proposals will consolidate existing rules on ingredients and nutritional labelling. But the European Council and the Parliament will be allowed their say before any changes are implemented, and they have very different views.

For example, says Gillen, the EC originally proposed a minimum type size of 3mm. "This is significant when labels have to carry a lot of information. The European Parliament has said there should be no mandatory minimum size. It wants to rely on guidelines on size and colour. So far the European Council has accepted that 3mm is too big and, instead, is proposing 1.5mm."

The European Parliament is also unhappy with a proposal to include the origin of 'significant' ingredients on labels (those that constitute over 50%). At the moment the country of origin of ingredients need not be labelled unless that leads to confusion. The European Parliament, backed by farmers, wants these rules to be much tighter, particularly for meat and dairy products.

But, Gillen says, food manufacturers are resisting because they would have to change their labelling every time their supply chain altered, particularly for seasonal ingredients. This could lead to the consolidation of supply chains, she warned.

* What are food labels for? Find out at Food Manufacture's conference on The Future of Food Labelling, Front-Of-Pack 2011​, at the De Vere Venues West One, London on March 10.

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