Speakers from the research organisation Campden BRI and law firm DWF both highlighted the lack of answers to important questions, ahead of the December 13 deadline.
Stephen Spice, head of regulatory affairs at Campden BRI, told the webinar audience: “There were an awful lot of things left hanging and required some clarification.”
Spice said the authorities had still to clarify the rules surrounding the national mark on mincemeat and what precise date should be applied to first freezing of food – particularly when it is associated with fish.
‘Regulations are still coming through’
“The implementing regulations are still coming through,” said Spice. “We have seen one on meat about the country of origin labelling [COOL] appear at the end of last year. There were two others that were expected in December and we have seen preliminary documents on these. These are meat uses and ingredients and primary ingredient provenance declarations where a voluntary provenance declaration is given.”
The other implementing regulations that have yet to appear will cover: trans fats, the labelling of nutrition on alcohol and vegetarian labelling.
The use of nanomaterials by food and drink manufacturers also required clarification. “We recently saw a bit of a u-turn on nanomaterials, so it is really not known what is going on here. A new definition of nanomaterials was inserted into the FIR only for it to be dis-approved quite soon afterwards and to disappear effectively.”
Dominic Watkins, partner and head of the food group at event sponsor law firm DWF, confirmed uncertainty surrounded both the existing labelling rules and the new rules still to be unveiled.
“There is a whole range of questions just on what we have so far,” said Watkins. “The impact on the foodservice industry is one area where the labelling regulations just say it is down to the Member States to make a decision. So, other than allergens, there are no other obligations to set there – raising lots of questions.”
Will the allergen rule be enforced for products served on airlines and in other transport industries? he asked.
Also, how would the rules on distance, or internet, selling work in practice? Watkins questioned whether websites were ready for the changes.
Watkins warned the European Commission had another 15 sets of rules, covering the regulation, which it might implement.
“They cover a wide range of things and they have started to come forward either in draft form or final form,” said Watkins. “But, between now and December, we could find more rules coming forward and more changes required.
Estimated at £3,500 per label change
“Logically there is going to be a transition provision allowing for the changes. But we are in place where the huge cost [estimated at £3,500 per label change] could be repeated for various parts of the industry, as we move forward and discover that more changes are needed when the new rules come into force.”
Alasdair Tucker, head of regulatory affairs at the UK’s second largest ambient grocery manufacturer Premier Foods, complained of delays surrounding the introduction and clarification of the new rules.
“While the starting gun was fired in December 2011, we have found there are various diversions and distractions and delays that have meant we have had to consider our approach to putting the information onto label,” said Tucker.
Read more on how some food and drink manufacturers could face an early adopters’ penalty by changing their labels before the full rules become clear here.
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FIR: the known unknowns
- The rules on the national mark on mincemeat.
- What date should be applied to first freezing of food.
- Implementing regulations on meat uses and ingredients and primary ingredient provenance declarations.
- Implementing regulations on: trans fats, nutrition labelling on alcohol and vegetarian food.
- Impact on the foodservice industry.
- Rules on distance, or internet, selling.