Food Law News - UK - 1998

1 July 1998: LABELLING - Better Food Labels For Consumers

MAFF News Release (277/98), 1 July 1998

Better Food Labels For Consumers

New rules introduced today mean consumers will in future benefit from more detailed labels on the foods they buy.

Under new EU rules, all food labels will have to show the percentage quantity of main ingredients. For example, a can of chicken soup will have to state the percentage of chicken; a cheese and onion pasty will state the percentages of cheese and onion.

Also, in a separate Beef Labelling Scheme, detailed labels on fresh and frozen beef must now be approved by MAFF and verified by an independent body. For example, claims on labels such as 'British', 'grass-fed' or 'Aberdeen Angus' are examples of the types of claim covered by scheme. Any beef labelled 'British' must, from today, come from an animal born, raised and slaughtered in the UK.

Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker said:
"I am pleased to say that Britain is leading the way in Europe on both these important issues. Many British manufacturers have already started labelling their products in this way. Declaring the percentage quantities of main ingredients on labels is one of the most important changes to our labelling laws ever made. Approved labels on beef will give consumers the added reassurance of knowing that claims made on labels have been verified to be accurate. Already, 11,000 outlets have been approved under this scheme."

Under the EC Quantitative Ingredient Declarations (QUID) requirements, labels must generally show the percentage quantity of those ingredients mentioned in the name of the product, or which are emphasised on the label, or which give the food its essential characteristics. The system becomes compulsory for all member states by the year 2000. Britain has been leading the way in Europe to develop detailed guidance notes on the implementation of the new rules throughout the EU.

Ingredients such as 'starch' or 'modified starch' will have to indicate their specific vegetable origin if they are likely to contain gluten. This will also help those consumers who have to keep their diet gluten-free.

Under the Beef Labelling Scheme, retailers, wholesalers and abattoirs were encouraged by MAFF to get their applications approved in good time. Over 830 applications have so far been approved, covering at least 11,000 outlets. This means that the overwhelming majority of beef is already being sold with approved labels.

Directive 97/4/EC of the European Parliament and the Council, which amends Directive 79/112/EEC on food labelling was adopted on 27 January 1997. Member states must permit trade in products conforming to the new requirements by 14 August 1998. Trade in products which do not conform to the new requirements will be prohibited from 14 February 2000.

The Beef Labelling Scheme implements Title II of EC Regulation 820/97 which applies to all member states. The Scheme was originally due to come into force on 1 January 1998 but the European Commission twice postponed this at the request of other member states. This was announced in News Release 130/98. The Scheme was opened to applications in the UK on 1 November 1997. Details about the Scheme and how to apply can be obtained from:
Beef Labelling Scheme, MAFF, Room 416, Whitehall Place (West Block) London SW1A 2HH.

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