June 16, 2011


EU agrees on new food labelling rules



EU negotiators reached a deal on new food labelling rules, which aim to fight rising levels of obesity in Europe by helping consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions.


Under the agreement, all food products must carry labels showing their energy, salt, sugar, protein, carbohydrate, fat and saturated fat content, said EU officials.


All alcoholic beverages will be exempted from nutritional labelling, including alcopops, which EU governments had originally wanted to see labelled, one official said.


The guideline daily amount (GDA) information on salt, fat, sugar and energy content will be voluntary under the agreement, rather than mandatory, as some EU lawmakers requested.


The deal was reached on Wednesday (June 15), following talks between officials from the Hungarian EU presidency, the European Parliament and the European Commission. It must now be formally approved by EU governments and the full parliament before becoming law.


The new rules would require compulsory country-of-origin labelling for pork, poultry, lamb and goat meat within two years of entering force. Mandatory origin labelling for beef and veal was introduced in the EU in 2000, shortly before the start of the Europe's second bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis.


Before the new labels are introduced, the Commission must specify how it intends to deal with animals that are born, raised or slaughtered in more than one country, an official said. The Commission must also say by 2013 whether origin labels should be extended to include processed meat products and a year later make a decision on whether to widen the scope further to include milk products.


Under the deal, individual EU countries will be allowed to introduce labelling systems that go beyond the new EU rules, provided they are science-based and voluntary, which could allow Britain and others to keep their traffic-light systems.


Traffic-light labels, which rank the fat, sugar and salt content of food as either high (red), medium (yellow) or low (green), are used by British-based retailers including J Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer, though others, including Tesco have resisted the scheme.

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