Food Law News - EU - 2001

FSA Letter, 29 June 2001

LABELLING / FISH - Labelling of Fish and Fish Products

Council Regulation 104/2000 on the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products was agreed in December 1999. Article 4 of that Regulation requires that from 1 January 2002, consumers be provided with detailed labelling information when purchasing certain fish, shellfish and fish products.

The letter attached a copy of a draft Commission Regulation, presented to the Fishery Products Management Committee (FPMC) on 21 June. The draft Regulation provides details of how the rules required by Article 4 of Regulation 104/2000 should be applied.

The draft Regulation will be considered in more detail at the next meeting of the Fish Products Marketing Council on 19 July, and the Commission has asked Member States to submit any written comments on the text before that date. With this in mind, I would be grateful for any comments you may have on the attached by 11 July and apologise for the short deadline.

The FSA drew attention in particular to the following points:

Article 1

The scope of the draft Regulation covers all fishery products covered by Chapter 3 of the Customs Code. This includes pre-packaged fish, but does not extend to processed fish (Chapter 16) such as canned sardines. For the sake of completeness should the scope be extended to processed fish?

You may also wish to note that this Article makes an exemption for the products in codes 0305, 0306 and 0307, where such products are sold otherwise than to the final consumer.

Article 2

Designations of fish are already included in Schedule 1 of the Food Labelling Regulations 1996. We anticipate that this list will be updated to include all major traded species, and those for which separate Customs Code have been given. The letter attached a table with a list of these species.

Article 3

It is likely that any new species will be given the local trade name, and not the scientific name as suggested in Article 3.1.

Article 5

The suggested text would require the labelling of a product caught rather than farmed to include the words "caught in", e.g., "Cod caught in the North Sea". We believe it would be preferable for the Regulation to assume that the fish was caught, and require the label to state simply e.g., "North Sea cod" or "freshwater trout". Where the fish has been farmed, then the method of production would need to be stated, e.g. "farmed Scottish Salmon". The misuse of such descriptions would of course be contrary to the provisions of the Food Labelling Regulations.

Article 6

You will note that the Regulation would require catch areas to be given as per the Commission's list, for example, which splits the Atlantic into seven areas. We believe this could be simplified, as consumers are not familiar with some of these areas nor understand their significance in terms distinguishing fish from one catch area from another. One possibility would be to use geographic origin rather than catch areas, such as "Scottish Salmon" or "Icelandic Cod"? We would welcome views on this issue.

Article 7

This Article would seem to allow operators to sell a mixture of fish under the name of the species that makes up the majority of the catch. This might prove misleading to the consumer where a significant proportion of the product is made up of "other" species. There is a similar provision for products comprising fish from a mixture of catch areas or production methods. What approach could be taken here to ensure that consumers are not misled, without being unduly onerous for producers?

Article 10

The Regulation is due to come into force with effect from 1 January 2002. What lead in time would be required to make the necessary changes in product labelling?

Attached is the current list of fish names from Schedule 1 of the Food Labelling Regulations (FLR). [See]

Regulation 104/2000 requires that, for the purposes of the labelling requirements of Article 4, Member States draw up and publish a list of the commercial names accepted in their territory. This list must include the names given in Annexes I to IV of the Regulation, but may also include additional names. The FSA anticipate that the list eventually submitted by the UK will include many of the names currently laid down by Schedule 1 of the FLR. The table shows the two lists for comparison. At this stage therefore, it would be helpful to have comments on which species (if any) should be added to the Schedule, and any species which could be removed.

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