July 1, 2005


EU to study proposed eco-labelling fish


The EC favours setting minimum requirements for environmentally friendly claims made in the labelling of fish and fishery products.


However, it does not favour setting up a single system for the eco-labelling of these products, according to a consultation document issued Jun 29.


Triggered by strong consumer feedback calling for tighter regulation in the labelling claims of food producers and retailers, the consultation aims to address any possible labelling abuse and investigate any environmental damage accrued as a result.


It is hard to say what the demand for such labelled products might be, the EC noted. Studies conducted in the US show that consumers make buying decisions based largely on price competitiveness rather than environmental concerns. 


European supermarkets, however, have responded to consumer concerns about the environment, with some turning only to sustainable fisheries as their only source of supply.


Setting only minimum standards would allow eco-labelling schemes to develop freely through public and private initiatives. This will take place according to demand for such products and as long as the minimum requirements are met, the EC said.


Any ruling on the labelling regulations will not be left to the public, as consumers may not have enough knowledge to make informed decisions, the EU has ruled. Also out is the possibility of administering a single public scheme, as this is not appropriate or practical, the EC said.


Private sector involvement can, however, be considered, provided that this does not run counter to major public policy objectives, such as fair competition, objective information and aquaculture conservation.


The Food and Agriculture Organization has so far set international guidelines on eco-labelling, an issue which has also been discussed at World Trade Organisation meetings.

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