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Europe: EU rolls out new labeling rules

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The new EU food labeling rules that came into effect this month will ensure that consumers receive clearer, more comprehensive and accurate information on food content, and help them make informed choices about what they eat.

“As of 13 December 2014, European citizens will see the results of years of work to improve food labeling rules. Key content information will now be more clearly marked on labels, helping people make informed choices on the food they buy,” says EU Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis.

“The new rules put the consumer first by providing clearer information, and in a way that is manageable for businesses.”

The new rules were adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2011.

Changes

Some of the key changes to the labeling rules include:

  • Improved legibility of information (minimum font size for mandatory information);
  • Clearer and harmonized presentation of allergens (e.g. soy, nuts, gluten, lactose) for prepacked foods (emphasis by font, style or background color) in the list of ingredients;
  • Mandatory allergen information for non-prepacked food, including in restaurants and cafes;
  • Requirement of certain nutrition information for majority of prepacked processed foods;
  • Mandatory origin information for fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry;
  • Same labeling requirements for online, distance-selling or buying in a shop;
  • List of engineered nanomaterials in the ingredients.
  • Specific information on the vegetable origin of refined oils and fats;
  • Strengthened rules to prevent misleading practices;
  • Indication of substitute ingredient for ‘Imitation’ foods;
  • Clear indication of ‘formed meat’ or ‘formed fish’; and
  • Clear indication of defrosted products.

However, rules relating to mandatory nutritional labeling for processed food will apply from 13 December 2016.

Food business operators have been given three years to ensure a smooth transition towards the new labeling regime for prepacked and non-prepacked foods.

In addition, the Regulation provides for exhaustion of stocks for foods placed on the market or labeled before 13 December 2014, which excludes exhaustion of stocks of labels.

The Commission has been working with businesses to ensure that the new rules will be properly implemented.

Work is also underway on developing an EU database to facilitate the identification of all EU and national mandatory labeling rules in a simple way.

This will offer a user-friendly tool for all food business operators and for SME’s to consult.

The work for the creation of the database should be carried out during 2015.