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Late 2012 agreement on new European Food Information Regulation

Author : John Hammond, Head of Information & Legislation, Campden BRI

21 September 2011

Negotiations have been underway since February 2008 to combine and modernise long standing general and nutrition labelling together into a single regulation to simplify and consolidate existing labelling legislation.

The aim is to provide a basis for consumers to make informed food choices; to prevent any practices that may mislead consumers; and to promote the free and fair trade of food within the EU. The Regulation will be directly applicable in all Member States and once the transitional measures have expired, will replace existing UK labelling legislation.

The task of simplifying, updating and repackaging the rules on food labelling into a Regulation applicable across all 27 Member States has been complex one and the subject of much debate.

One of the biggest proposed changes is likely to be the introduction of mandatory nutritional labelling for the majority of pre-packed foods. Food manufacturers and retailers will be required to declare levels of energy, fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt per 100g or 100ml although percentage reference intake data may also be given voluntarily.

Label clarity: Another aspect of the proposed Regulation that is likely to be significant is the legibility of statutory information on food labels. A font size based on a 1.2mm minimum height is being suggested, coupled with a requirement for the Commission to propose further guidance on aspects such as contrast as well as a less demanding standard for small packages.

Country of origin: A tightening of the rules surrounding country of origin is also probable, particularly , where the stated origin or provenance of a food and its primary ingredients differ - for example, ‘British Sausages’ which have been made from imported meat Compulsory country of origin labelling is extended beyond fresh and frozen beef, veal and poultry to include lamb and pork.

Distance selling: Internet and other distance selling laws may also be more specifically controlled, particularly important given the growing importance of online shopping. A requirement for all the usual information to be provided to consumers before the purchase is concluded, other than the durability date, looks likely.

Non pre-packed foods: National measures look set to continue to apply in terms of how much information needs to be given when food is sold loose. Information on allergens will however almost certainly have to be provided albeit in a flexible format.

Tighter controls in a number of other areas are also likely, including when consumers might be misled by the sale of previously frozen foods and where vegetable oils are used as ingredients, in which case the specific types present, although not their proportions, will probably need to be specified.

Campden BRI has an experienced Food Law Advisory Team with specialist knowledge of the Food Information Regulation that can advise food manufacturers on the likely implications of the proposed changes and can provide help and support on all aspects of food labelling once it has been agreed including:

• On the 8th of December, a seminar with leading speakers from Defra, DH, LG Regulation and other key stakeholders
• Customised interactive multi disciplinary company briefing days
• Reviews of existing product labels or ranges to help develop and minimise the cost of change programmes


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