FSA News Item, 11 June 2008
In January, the European Commission issued a proposal for a new food information regulation that aims to update and simplify existing food labelling rules. The Agency has consulted on the proposals and, following the Board's approval today, will now contribute to the development of the UK's position in Europe on the new regulation.
The Agency Board has agreed that the aim of the Agency's negotiations is to promote clear and consistent food labels to help consumers make appropriate and informed choices.
As previously discussed in April, the Board has expressed its support for mandatory nutrition labelling and front-of-pack (FOP) labelling approaches that follow the Agency's core principles. It also expressed its commitment to an independent evaluation of FOP labelling schemes in use in the UK and recognised that the evidence emerging from this work would be important in the context of future discussions on this matter.
In April, the Board discussed the nutritional labelling element of the European Commission's food regulations proposal. The purpose of discussing it in advance was so the Board had plenty of time to fully consider all the nutritional and general labelling aspects of the proposal before forming a view on it.
The Board felt that the approach to clarity should go wider than simply font size. Any rules that are developed should take into account all aspects of labels that make it easier for consumers to read.
Country of Origin
It felt that the Commission's proposals on information on where a food is produced or processed should be more focused and only deal with products where consumers are experiencing possible confusion. They have also agreed that statutory obligations are kept to a reasonable minimum.
Allergy labelling for food sold loose
The Board felt that Member States should in principle be required to label allergens in food sold loose, such as in restaurants, cafes, and delis, but that each country be free to decide how this is delivered. The Agency has already produced guidance on this area of labelling.
Labelling rules should include the labelling of food sold over the Internet or through mail order catalogues, the Board felt, although it recognised that not all the information needed to be attached as a label but other means might be used, such as telephone help lines. The Board's agreement is subject, though, to further discussions during the negotiations around the impact on small businesses.
The Board felt that the requirements on ingredients lists for food should be extended to all alcoholic drinks. At the moment the proposal only covers ‘pre-mixed' drinks such as alcopops and not wine, beer and spirits. The Agency believes that the labelling rules on alcohol should be consistent. Energy declarations should also be given on labels.
The Board's views will, together with the views of other Government departments, be developed into UK negotiating lines to be agreed with Ministers. Negotiations are likely to start in Europe under the French presidency in September.