Food Law News - EU - 2001

Commission Memo (MEMO/01/302), 26 September 2001

PARNUTS / FOOD LAW / GM FOODS - Preparation of the Internal Market/Consumer Affairs/Tourism Council - Brussels, 27 September 2001

The EU's Council of Ministers concerning the Internal Market, Consumer Affairs and Tourism will meet in Brussels on Thursday 27th September from 9.00am. The following issues relating to food are included.

Food Supplements

The Council is expected to reach a political agreement on the proposal for a Directive on food supplements on the basis of a compromise put forward by the Belgian Presidency. Commissioner Byrne will accept the compromise text as a well-balanced and in view of reaching a Common Position on the proposed Directive. The Commission put forward its proposal in May 2000 to harmonise national rules which currently differ substantially and in response to an increase in the use of pills and capsules as diet supplements. It sets out safety rules for food supplements that contain vitamins and minerals, and requires that labels give the consumer detailed information on their vitamin and mineral content and daily consumption, including a warning about exceeding their intake as recommended by the manufacturer.

Under the newly proposed rules, labels on, for example, bottles of vitamin pills will have to include a recommendation for a daily dose, a warning about possible health risk in case of excess use, and a statement that the pills should not be used as a substitute for a varied diet. Claims that the product can prevent, treat or cure illness will be prohibited. Any language suggesting that a varied diet does not provide the necessary amounts of essential nutrients will be equally prohibited.

The proposed Directive includes a positive list of chemical substances authorised for the production of vitamins and minerals following their scientific assessment by the Scientific Committee for Food. The compromise text foresees that maximum and minimum levels of vitamin and mineral content in the daily dose of food supplements will be set based on a scientific risk assessment and data on vitamin and minerals intake from other sources, as well as on the total intake of vitamins and minerals deemed adequate by scientists.

General Food law and the European Food Authority

Following up on their Common Position adopted in July this year, Ministers will review the state of play on key organisational aspects of the future European Food Authority. Agreement notably remains to be found on the composition of the Management Board to make progress towards the final adoption of the proposed Regulation on General Food Law and establishing a European Food Authority. Commissioner Byrne will urge that rapid progress in the decision-making between Council, European Parliament and Commission needs to be made if the Authority is to become operational early in 2002. He will point out that procedures for appointing the Management Board and recruiting an Executive Director will take time, and even if accelerated, are unlikely to be completed before January 2002. The Council will not discuss the seat of the future Authority.

Traceability and labelling of GMOs and food and feed produced from GMOs

Commissioner Byrne will present two Commission proposals of July 2001 setting up a harmonised community system to trace GMOs, introducing the labelling of GM feed, reinforcing the current labelling rules on GM food and establishing a streamlined authorisation procedure for GMOs in food and feed. The proposals aim to put into place a stringent regulatory framework, addressing the legitimate concerns of citizens, consumer organisations and economic operators. A strict safety assessment of GMOs by the European Food Authority will assure a high level of health and environmental protection. The labelling of all GM food and feed products will allow consumers and farmers to decide if they want to buy food or feed produced from a GMO, or not. No discussion on this topic is foreseen.

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