Parliament's negotiating team has received the Council's green light for the provisional agreement reached last week on new EU legislation on food labelling. The deal, which aims to ensure that food labels become clearer in future, now needs to be approved by Parliament in a plenary vote in July.
"The deal is a milestone in the EU`s food legislation that will benefit both the consumer and food business operators", commented Parliament's rapporteur Renate Sommer (EPP, DE), adding that "In future, European citizens will find much more information on the packages than before".
What the new rules will mean
The draft legislation aims to modernise, simplify and clarify food labelling within the EU. It would harmonize existing rules on information that is compulsory on all labels, such as list of ingredients, "best before" or "use by" dates, specific conditions of use, and add a requirement to list key nutritional information. For producers and food business operators, it will reduce red tape and strengthen the single market.
Compulsory legible nutrition labelling on packaging
The negotiating teams agreed that key nutritional information, such as energy content and amounts of fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt, must be indicated in a legible tabular form on the packaging. All this information would normally have to be expressed per 100g or per 100ml. It could also be expressed per portion and could also be accompanied by guideline daily amounts, after the Commission has defined portion sizes.
Concerning the labelling of transfats, MEPs agreed that before introducing any obligation to label food containing transfats, the Commission will have to submit within three years a report on the presence of transfats in food in the EU, which evaluates possible ways to tackle the problem. If neccessary, this report should be accompanied by a legislative proposal.
At the request of MEPs on the negotiating team, the agreement says that allergenic substances must be highlighted in the ingredient list, so that consumers can find the information on allergens at first glance.
"Country of origin" labelling
The origin of certain foods, such as beef, honey, olive oil and fresh fruit and vegetables, must already be stated on the label. At Parliament's request, the Council of Ministers agreed at the first reading to extend this requirement to fresh meat from swine, sheep, goat and poultry.
Many MEPs also wanted to extend country of origin labelling to more products (such as milk and dairy products and other single-ingredient products or meat when used as an ingredient), but this proved unacceptable to Council. Instead, it was agreed that before considering whether to extend country of origin labelling to other categories of food, the Commission will have to conduct impact assessments to assess the feasibility and potential costs of such labelling requirements.
To avoid misleading consumers
At the request of MEPs, rules to ensure that consumers are not misled by the presentation of food packaging with regard to its appearance, description or pictorial presentation will be strengthened. They also insisted that foods should not be labelled in a way that could create the impression that they are a different food. Where an ingredient that would normally be expected has been replaced, this should be clearly stated on the label and next to the brand name, the agreement says.
Meat consisting of combined meat parts must be labelled "formed meat", and the same will apply to "formed fish".
At the request of MEPs, consumers will in future be better informed about the sources of vegetable oils. This will enable them, for example, to identify palm oil, given that environment and animal welfare organizations have highlighted the fact that unsustainable palm oil plantations endanger rain forests.
MEPs did not insist that meat from slaughter without stunning (in accordance with certain religious traditions), must be labelled as such, but agreed that this should be considered in the context of forthcoming discussion on the animal welfare strategy.
Entry into force
Once the legislation is adopted, food businesses will have three years to adapt to the rules. They will have two more years, so five years in total, to apply the rules on the nutritional declaration.
Parliament is expected to vote on the agreement at its July plenary session and Council needs to formally approve it as well. If it is not backed either by Council or by the majority of Parliament, the dossier will go to conciliation.