Rules on the labelling and contents of baby milks and food for people with special medical needs would be better defined to protect consumers and give clarity to the food industry, under draft legislation adopted by the European Parliament on Thursday as a negotiating position with the Council. The special rules would also cover gluten intolerance and certain low-calorie diets.
The new legislation is to 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.
The report, drafted by Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE) was adopted with 603 votes in favour, 8 against and 8 abstentions.
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.
Parliament 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 if needed.
Special gluten labelling rules are also to be included in this legislation. Food products intended for people with gluten intolerance should contain less than 100 mg gluten per kg and may be labelled as having "very low gluten content" whilst those containing less than 20 mg of gluten per kg may be labelled "gluten free".
MEPs say the European Commission should prepare a study with a view to addressing the lack of specific rules for lactose intolerance.
MEPs are concerned that slimming claims are made on growing numbers of food product labels. Parliament says that the new rules should cover energy-restricted diets designed to replace a person's daily food intake or strict diets for obese people. These include "low-calorie diets" (800-1,200 calories per day) and "very low-calorie diets" (400-800 calories).
Statements on diet foods intended for the general public should be regulated by the 2006 health claims regulation, MEPs add.
Procedure: Co-decision (1st reading)