Rules on the labelling and contents of baby milks and food for people with special dietary needs will be better defined to protect consumers and give clarity to the food industry, under a draft law approved by the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee on Tuesday.
The text approved by the committee confirms an informal deal struck with the Council. The new legislation will replace several existing laws in order to streamline and clarify labelling and composition rules, which cover products representing around 1-2% of the total food market. The changes were proposed due to problems faced by both consumers and authorities in distinguishing between foods for normal consumption and those intended for specific groups.
"Only vulnerable people, who really need specific foods for their physiological and nutritional balance, will be covered by this new regulation. Infants, young children and seriously ill people clearly are not consumers like any other and it is our duty as a legislator to fix stricter rules to govern, for example, the composition and labelling of foodstuffs intended for them", said rapporteur for the new regulation on special foods Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE).
In future, the labelling of all milk formulae for babies up to 12 months old (including "follow-on" formulae) should not include pictures of babies or images that "idealise the use" of the product, says the text.
The compromise also says that the Commission should review the currently complex legal situation of milks intended for children between 12 and 36 months old (so-called "growing-up milks") and propose new rules for them too if needed.
In response to the growing use of slimming claims on food product labels, the new rules will also cover energy-restricted diets designed to replace a person's daily food intake or strict diets for obese people (less than 800 calories or 800 - 1,200 calories per day respectively)
Statements on diet foods intended for the general public should be regulated by the 2006 health claims regulation.
The deal now needs to be formally approved by Parliament and the Council. Parliament will put it to a plenary vote in the spring, and the rules will take effect three years thereafter.