Speaking after MEPs rejected the revised nutrition claims list yesterday (January 31), which was recently adopted by the European Commission, Barbara Gallani, the Food and Drink Federation’s (FDF) director of food safety and science, said: “The FDF invites MEPs - who will vote in the plenary [session] on Thursday - to consider the impact that their vote will have on SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises] and on industry’s incentive to develop products with at least 15% less energy, salt and fat.”
Gallani expressed disappointment at the European Parliament's committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, which rejected the addition of the 'now contains X% less' claim. The decision also automatically rejects the 'no added salt' claim to the nutrition annex of Regulation 1934/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods.
“The ‘now contains X% less (energy, sodium/salt, fat, saturated fat, or sugar)’ claim provides the legal framework that informs consumers about incremental reductions of certain nutrients,” said Gallani.
Confusing for consumers
“It provides an incentive to continue innovation and reformulation efforts to meet consumer demand and public health goals, even where technical solutions are difficult to find. We don’t agree it is confusing for consumers as the level of reduction would have to be stated right next to the claim.”
European food and drink firms’ representative body FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) said: “Food operators strongly support the use of nutrition claims ‘on pack’ to ensure that consumers are informed of a specific nutritional benefit or a nutritional improvement that has been made to a recipe - often via voluntary reformulation efforts.”
An FDE statement described MEPs’ initial rejection as “bad for consumers and bad for business”.
It said: “The outcome of today’s vote, if confirmed in the EP plenary vote on February 2, would mean consumers would not be informed of the benefits of incremental nutritional changes/improvements to products.
“Also, food operators would have less possibility to communicate their reformulation efforts, presenting disincentives to invest in costly R&D and innovation techniques for the European market.”
At present, the ‘Reduced in X’ claim permits food manufacturers to communicate about reductions in a nutrient compared with a range of foods in the same category over a period of time, said the FDF. “The introduction of a ‘Now contains X% less’ claim would offer new possibilities to food manufacturers to communicate incremental nutritional changes made to their products to the consumer by comparing old and new recipes.
“Technological constraints to rolling out these smaller, step-wise reformulations are important to consider in this lengthy and costly process, not to mention the importance of gradually familiarising consumers to the new ‘improved’ taste.”
Watch out for our full report on the outcome of the final vote on Thursday February 2.