Food Law News - EU - 2005

Commission Press Release (IP/05/84), 24 January 2005

WEIGHTS - Commission consultation: Streamlined labelling to simplify life for consumers and manufacturers

25 national laws plus two EU directives ensure that consumers can rely on the weight indications on all packed products such as food, hygiene, cleaning products, paints etc. But national laws vary, leading to increased costs for producers for packaging and labeling. Consumers are faced with different labeling on packages. Taking up a recommendation of the SLIM exercise (Simpler Legislation for the Internal Market), the Commission is aiming to streamline the various existing laws into a single directive (currently two), while at the same time sweeping away some 25 different national rules in this area and reducing costs and regulatory headaches for manufacturers. To involve all stakeholders and consumers in preparing the new directive, the Commission has launched a public consultation to solicit the views of producers and citizens on its plans for simplifying current legislation and aligning it with the international standards formulated by the OIML (Organisation Internationale de Métrologie Légale).

Commissioner Verheugen said: “This initiative will improve consumer protection while making life easier for producers. With tests and interpretations of the law being the same in all Member States, manufacturers can look forward to significant cost reductions. With EU rules aligned to international standards, they will be able to market their products anywhere in the world without needing to re-label them.”

The aim of the public consultation is to meet consumer concerns and to enumerate costs and benefits for manufacturing and retailing. It covers an extremely diverse variety of consumer products, seeking reactions from consumers, retailers and manufacturers on how information on contents can be made more easily identifiable.

For example, do consumers prefer to see an indication of the number sweeteners in a package rather than the content in grams Do the contents of a box of chocolates include the wrappings of the individual pieces of chocolate in the box? Is water included in the contents indication for frozen meals? How should products like cheese in oil be indicated i.e. as drained weight and a separate indication of the liquid medium?

The public consultation follows the advice from a SLIM panel (Simpler Legislation for the Internal Market), which brings together government representatives with those of industry and consumer associations. The SLIM panel suggests maintaining exclusively Community regulation on metrological requirements for packages. The paper lays down definitions in legislation as regards the quantity, drained weight, desiccating products and alternative units such as number of washes in detergents, etc. Legislation would also contain provisions to guarantee the correct filling of packages, e.g. batches, manual filling, differently sized product filling as well as labelling requirements.

Whether or not to harmonise the differences in conformity assessment and enforcement is also included.

Consumers, retailers and manufactures are invited to give their views and to fill in an online survey until 15 March. The results of the consultation will be available during the first half of 2005.

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