On 22 June 2011, Member States have confirmed the compromise that was hammered out by the Hungarian Presidency with the European Parliament (EP), on the way food information will be indicated to consumers in the future. New provisions on mandatory nutrition information and legibility will enable consumers to make healthier dietary choices.
The EU Ambassadors meeting in Brussels on 22 June 2011, had confirmed the second reading agreement that was reached with the EP after intensive negotiations between 10 May and 14 June. As such, a new EU Regulation on food information can be put in place after a formal endorsement of the EP plenary on 5 July.
Easier dietary choices
As a main result, consumers will find a so called ‘mandatory nutrition information’ on pre-packaged foods. Under the new rules, the energy value, and the quantities of fat, saturates, carbohydrates, protein, sugars and salt must be indicated on the same field of vision per 100g or per 100ml; and additionally it can also expressed per portions.
Also, legibility of such information was an aspect of fine-tuning the agreement. The new rules introduce a minimum font size of 1.2 mm (for the x-height), for all mandatory information. However, if the largest surface of a food package is less than 80 cm², the minimum font size is reduced to 0.9 mm.If the largest surface of a food package is less than 25 cm², the nutrition declaration is not required. But, according to the internationally followed Codex Alimentarius, the name of the food, possible allergens, the net quantity and the date of minimum durability must always be indicated, regardless of the package size.
Country of origin no longer a secret
A third important element is the extension of the compulsory country of origin labelling to fresh meat of swine, sheep and goats, and poultry, in addition to beef, on which a separate piece of legislation was introduced during the BSE crisis; and in addition to fruits and vegetables, honey, olive oils, and cases where the failure to do so misleads the consumer.
Allergens, Imitation foods must be indicated
Further improvements of the EU food labelling rules concern allergens, which must be highlighted in the future, on the package within the list of ingredients. Similar consumer friendly considerations have drawn legislators to make labelling of the origin of vegetable oils. In addition the new regulations strengthens the requirements against misleading practices specifically aiming at imitation foods. Consumers will be able to easily recognise precisely what food they are serving on their dining table.
Legislation on trans fats if possible
The institutions also asked the Commission to submit a report within three years after the initial entry into force of the new regulation, which assesses the impacts of possible measures concerning trans fats. This means, among others, the provision of information on trans fats to consumers, and restrictions of their use should be examined as well. The Commission should accompany this report with a legislative proposal, if appropriate.