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Alcohol labelling

20-04-2021

In its Europe's Beating Cancer plan, published in February 2021, the European Commission suggests – among other initiatives concerning cancer prevention – several actions concerning alcoholic beverages, such as limiting online advertising and promotion, and reviewing European Union (EU) legislation on the taxation of alcohol. Also among the proposals is mandatory labelling of ingredients and nutrient content on alcoholic beverages by the end of 2022. Health warnings on labels should follow by the ...

In its Europe's Beating Cancer plan, published in February 2021, the European Commission suggests – among other initiatives concerning cancer prevention – several actions concerning alcoholic beverages, such as limiting online advertising and promotion, and reviewing European Union (EU) legislation on the taxation of alcohol. Also among the proposals is mandatory labelling of ingredients and nutrient content on alcoholic beverages by the end of 2022. Health warnings on labels should follow by the end of 2023. Labelling of ingredients and nutritional values on alcoholic drinks already has a long history. First attempts to label ingredients were made in the late 1970s, resulting in the Council not being able to agree on any of the proposed models. Alcoholic drinks containing more than 1.2 % by volume of alcohol (ABV) are exempted from the obligation set on other drinks and foodstuffs, to list the ingredients and make a nutritional declaration on the label. The European Commission adopted a report in 2017, concluding that it had 'not found objective grounds that would justify' the absence of information on ingredients and nutritional information on alcoholic beverages. Following on from the Commission's report, the European associations representing the alcoholic beverages sectors presented their self-regulation proposal in March 2018, suggesting that some sectors would list all ingredients on labels, while others could use online means of communication instead. Stakeholders have differing views on the desirability and feasibility of such listings on-label; some would prefer this information to be allowed to be given off-label through QR-codes, apps or websites, while others absolutely insist that alcoholic drinks should be no different from other sectors of the food and drink industry. The European Parliament has called on the European Commission to consider a health warning and calorie content on alcoholic beverage labels.

Recalls of sesame seed products due to pesticide residues

03-02-2021

In September 2020, Belgium initiated a notification in the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) concerning residues of an unauthorised substance called ethylene oxide (EO) in various lots of sesame seeds from India. This triggered a chain of enforced testing and controls, leading to withdrawals and recalls of significant amounts of products in many EU Member States, including products such as hummus, bread, and sauces containing sesame. Both conventional and organic products are concerned ...

In September 2020, Belgium initiated a notification in the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) concerning residues of an unauthorised substance called ethylene oxide (EO) in various lots of sesame seeds from India. This triggered a chain of enforced testing and controls, leading to withdrawals and recalls of significant amounts of products in many EU Member States, including products such as hummus, bread, and sauces containing sesame. Both conventional and organic products are concerned. A possible explanation according to scientists could be that ethylene oxide has been used for fumigating sesame seeds, to eradicate contamination with salmonella.

Revision of the Drinking Water Directive

25-01-2021

On 1 February 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a recast of the Directive on the quality of water intended for human consumption (the Drinking Water Directive). The proposal responded to the European Citizens' Initiative, Right2Water, and built on a fitness check which concluded that the 20-year old directive is fit for purpose, but needs updating. The main elements of the proposal consist of updating the water quality standards, introducing a risk-based approach to the monitoring ...

On 1 February 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a recast of the Directive on the quality of water intended for human consumption (the Drinking Water Directive). The proposal responded to the European Citizens' Initiative, Right2Water, and built on a fitness check which concluded that the 20-year old directive is fit for purpose, but needs updating. The main elements of the proposal consist of updating the water quality standards, introducing a risk-based approach to the monitoring of water, improving information provided to consumers, harmonising the standards for products in contact with drinking water, and improving access to water. In the European Parliament, the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) adopted its report in September 2018. The Parliament concluded its first reading in plenary in March 2019. A new rapporteur was appointed at the beginning of the new parliamentary term, and agreement was reached on the text in trilogue negotiations on 18 December 2019. The Parliament voted to adopt the text at second reading on 15 December 2020. The directive was published in the Official Journal on 23 December 2020, and the Member States have until 12 January 2023 to transpose it into national legislation. Fifth edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

EU water legislation

10-12-2020

During the December plenary session, Parliament is due to hold a joint debate on water legislation, and subsequently to vote on final adoption of the regulation recasting the Drinking Water Directive (DWD) and on a resolution on the implementation of EU water legislation. Revising the DWD is a result of the first-ever successful European citizens' initiative 'Right2Water'.

During the December plenary session, Parliament is due to hold a joint debate on water legislation, and subsequently to vote on final adoption of the regulation recasting the Drinking Water Directive (DWD) and on a resolution on the implementation of EU water legislation. Revising the DWD is a result of the first-ever successful European citizens' initiative 'Right2Water'.

Reducing food waste in the European Union

01-12-2020

According to a 2019 report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), we know surprisingly little about how much food is lost or wasted, where along the food supply chain this happens, and why. Producing food that is not eaten – whether because it is lost in the field or wasted on a plate – not only diminishes the quantity of food available, but is also a waste of economic and environmental resources, FAO states. Around 88 million tonnes of food waste are generated annually in ...

According to a 2019 report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), we know surprisingly little about how much food is lost or wasted, where along the food supply chain this happens, and why. Producing food that is not eaten – whether because it is lost in the field or wasted on a plate – not only diminishes the quantity of food available, but is also a waste of economic and environmental resources, FAO states. Around 88 million tonnes of food waste are generated annually in the EU alone, with associated costs estimated at €143 billion. To address this issue, an EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste was established in 2016. The forum brings together key players seeking to provide help to all those involved in: defining measures to prevent food waste, including at EU level; sharing best practices; and evaluating progress made over time. The European Parliament has consistently backed the reduction of food waste. In its resolution of January 2020 on the European Green Deal, the EP calls for an enforceable EU-wide food waste reduction target of 50 % by 2030, based on a common methodology for measuring food waste. Member States are expected to have started collecting data on food waste in 2020 and to report on national food waste levels by mid-2022. As part of the European Green Deal action plan, the European Commission presented in May 2020 a 'Farm to Fork strategy' aimed at making food systems more sustainable. One of the targets included in the strategy is 'stepping up the fight against food waste', that is, cutting food waste by half with the help of legally binding EU-wide targets by 2023. In this context, the Commission also aims to revise EU rules on date marking in order to take account of consumer research indicating that the meaning of date marking on food products is often misinterpreted or misunderstood.

New plant-breeding techniques: Applicability of EU GMO rules

13-11-2020

New plant genetic modification techniques, referred to as 'gene editing' or 'genome editing', have evolved rapidly in recent years, allowing much faster and more precise results than conventional plant-breeding techniques. They are seen as a promising innovative field for the agri-food industry, offering great technical potential. Consumers could benefit from enhanced nutritional quality or reduced allergenicity of food, for example, such as gluten-reduced wheat. There is, however, considerable debate ...

New plant genetic modification techniques, referred to as 'gene editing' or 'genome editing', have evolved rapidly in recent years, allowing much faster and more precise results than conventional plant-breeding techniques. They are seen as a promising innovative field for the agri-food industry, offering great technical potential. Consumers could benefit from enhanced nutritional quality or reduced allergenicity of food, for example, such as gluten-reduced wheat. There is, however, considerable debate as to how these new techniques should be regulated, and whether some or all of them should fall within the scope of EU legislation on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Those who take the view that the new techniques should be exempt from GMO legislation generally argue that the end product is very similar to products generated using conventional breeding techniques, or that similar changes could also occur naturally. Those who consider that the new techniques should fall within the scope of GMO legislation contend that the processes used mean that plants bred using the new techniques are in fact genetically modified. In July 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that genome-edited organisms fall under the scope of European GMO legislation. While welcomed by some, the judgment also sparked criticism and calls for the new European Commission to amend EU GMO legislation. In November 2019, the Council requested that the Commission submit a study in light of the Court of Justice judgment regarding the status of novel genomic techniques (NGTs), by 30 April 2021. This is an updated edition of an October 2019 Briefing.

How the coronavirus pandemic shook up our relationship with food

24-09-2020

First there was panic-buying. There were concerns over safety: could one be infected by food? Realisation of the efforts of supermarket staff, truck drivers and warehouse staff to keep food coming to customers. Spring amidst closed borders awakened us to how much we depend on foreign farm workers to pick fruit and vegetables. There were campaigns for furloughed employees to go and work on farms. Then came news about the conditions endured by some foreign workers in the food-processing industry. The ...

First there was panic-buying. There were concerns over safety: could one be infected by food? Realisation of the efforts of supermarket staff, truck drivers and warehouse staff to keep food coming to customers. Spring amidst closed borders awakened us to how much we depend on foreign farm workers to pick fruit and vegetables. There were campaigns for furloughed employees to go and work on farms. Then came news about the conditions endured by some foreign workers in the food-processing industry. The rollercoaster of the coronavirus crisis has changed our relationship with food, but whether just temporarily or for good, remains to be seen.

Nutrition labelling schemes used in Member States

27-07-2020

The controversial issue of ‘front-of-pack nutrition labelling’ (FOP labelling) has been high on the agenda of those following European food labelling issues for many years. With half of adults in the European Union being overweight and with many health problems related to unhealthy diets, making the healthy choice the easy choice for consumers has been advocated as one of the means that could help to solve problems. Front-of-pack nutrition labelling is simplified nutrition information provided on ...

The controversial issue of ‘front-of-pack nutrition labelling’ (FOP labelling) has been high on the agenda of those following European food labelling issues for many years. With half of adults in the European Union being overweight and with many health problems related to unhealthy diets, making the healthy choice the easy choice for consumers has been advocated as one of the means that could help to solve problems. Front-of-pack nutrition labelling is simplified nutrition information provided on the front of food packaging, aiming to help consumers with their food choices. Under the current EU rules, the indication of nutrition information on the front of packaging is not mandatory but could be provided on a voluntary basis. Some Member States have already introduced voluntary schemes to help consumers to identify healthier products. The Commission announces in its new ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy, launched in May 2020, that it will propose a mandatory harmonised front-of‑pack nutrition labelling system by the end of 2022. Consumer and health associations broadly consider that FOP nutrition labelling plays a key role in helping consumers make more informed, healthier food choices. There is, however, also criticism of such schemes, arguing that they are over-simplified and can mislead consumers. In its resolution on the European Green Deal, adopted in January 2020, the European Parliament welcomes the plan for a sustainable food system strategy, as well as the Commission’s intention to explore new ways to give consumers better information, and calls on the Commission to consider improved food labelling.

New plant-breeding techniques: Applicability of EU GMO rules

10-10-2019

New plant genetic modification techniques, referred to as 'gene editing' or 'genome editing', have evolved rapidly in recent years, allowing much faster and more precise results than conventional plant-breeding techniques. They are seen as a promising innovative field for the agri-food industry, offering great technical potential. There is, however, considerable debate as to how these new techniques should be regulated, and whether some or all of them should fall within the scope of EU legislation ...

New plant genetic modification techniques, referred to as 'gene editing' or 'genome editing', have evolved rapidly in recent years, allowing much faster and more precise results than conventional plant-breeding techniques. They are seen as a promising innovative field for the agri-food industry, offering great technical potential. There is, however, considerable debate as to how these new techniques should be regulated, and whether some or all of them should fall within the scope of EU legislation on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Those who take the view that the new techniques should be exempt from GMO legislation generally argue that the end product is very similar to products generated using conventional breeding techniques, or that similar changes could also occur naturally. Those who consider that the new techniques should fall within the scope of GMO legislation contend that the processes used mean that plants bred using the new techniques are in fact genetically modified. In July 2018, the European Court of Justice gave a judgment ruling that genome-edited organisms fall under the scope of European GMO legislation. While welcomed by some, the judgment has also sparked criticism and calls for the new European Commission to amend EU GMO legislation. This is an updated edition of a 2016 Briefing.

Reconsidering the General Food Law

30-09-2019

On 11 April 2018, the European Commission published a proposal to review the General Food Law Regulation and amend eight legislative acts dealing with specific food chain sectors. The proposal follows up on the European Citizens' Initiative on glyphosate; and especially on concerns regarding the transparency of the scientific studies used in the evaluation of pesticides. The proposal also responds to a fitness check of the General Food Law, completed in January 2018. The proposal's objective is to ...

On 11 April 2018, the European Commission published a proposal to review the General Food Law Regulation and amend eight legislative acts dealing with specific food chain sectors. The proposal follows up on the European Citizens' Initiative on glyphosate; and especially on concerns regarding the transparency of the scientific studies used in the evaluation of pesticides. The proposal also responds to a fitness check of the General Food Law, completed in January 2018. The proposal's objective is to increase the transparency and sustainability of the EU scientific assessment model, and other aspects such as governance of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In the European Parliament, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) adopted its report on 27 November 2018. A vote in plenary to finalise Parliament's position took place on 11 December and the Council adopted its position on 12 December 2018. A provisional agreement was reached in trilogue on 11 February 2019 and endorsed in the ENVI committee on 20 February. The European Parliament adopted the text at first reading on 17 April; the Council adopted it on 13 June. The final act, signed on 20 June, was published in the Official Journal on 6 September 2019 and is applicable, for the most part, from 27 March 2021.

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