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New food labels: As easy as pie

Others Article - Food safety26-04-2011 - 15:23
Label showing small print   Aim to make labels more legible and explanatory

No small print! Food labels should be simpler, clearer and provide information not only on ingredients, but also about possible dangers to health from components like trans fats or allergens, according to a report on food information for consumers backed by the Environment Committee 19 April. "It's a good start for negotiations with the Council," Parliament's draftswoman German Christian Democrat Renate Sommer said.

"We must put an end to the various and inconsistent national requirements and provide for an EU-wide set of rules. I hope we can strike a deal by July," she said.

There is a real need to provide clear information about what is in the food people are eating, Ms Sommer said. "Today consumers can find a lot of information on products but they can't read it, the print is too small. The new rules will help consumers."

MEPs voted on 420 amendments, some of the most important changes adopted are:   

  • legibility: there should be a minimal font size of 1.2 mm for information on the packaging, so it's clearer and more visible to consumers

  • allergen labelling is obligatory on pre-packed food but should also be added to food packed in store and sold in restaurants, canteens and food

  • freezing date: producers must provide the date of the first freezing of unprocessed meat, poultry and fish

  • place of provenance for all single ingredient products like meat, poultry, dairy, fruit and vegetables and some processed food. Also, in cases where for example a cow is born, reared and slaughtered in three different countries they must all be indicated (the Council is against this proposal)

  • no compulsory information on the front of the pack - but it can be placed there on voluntary basis

  • included in the compulsory information on the "back" are the amount of: fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt, protein, carbohydrates and trans fats + energy content

  • clear indications about food imitating substances like fake "cheese" or glued meat

  • exemptions: alcoholic drinks, gift packaging, seasonal confectionary, food for immediate consumption, handcrafted food by small producers

What's next?

A trialogue with the Commission and the Council begins 10 May. The report should be voted in the plenary in July.

REF. : 20110415STO17909
Updated: ( 02-05-2011 - 14:31)
What's on labels today?

Name under which product is sold


List of ingredients


Quantity of certain ingredients


Net quantity


Date of minimum durability


Alcoholic strength of beverages >1.2% alcohol by volume


Special storage instructions/conditions of use


Name and address of manufacturer or packager, or seller in the EU


Origin – if absence is misleading


Instructions for use where necessary