Only two weeks ago, it did not look good for the future of including fat, salt, sugar, the country of origin and similar information on food product labels. In its statement, the Internal Market Committee of the European Parliament had made further concessions to the food industry. This week, the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety voted on the draft Directive. With far more pleasing results for consumers.
During the past months, the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour and consumer organisations informed the MEPs comprehensively about consumer-friendly food labelling measures. With success obviously, as the consumer protectors were able to get a number of their concerns accepted. If it were up to the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the Food Labelling Directive would include the following points:

  • In future, it will not only be mandatory for food packages to specify energy content, fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugar and salt, but in addition also fibre, protein, natural and artificial trans fats. In the past, the Chamber of Labour repeatedly criticised the use of artificially hydrogenated fats (trans fats) because consuming too much of these fats over a long period may lead to arteriosclerosis, inflammatory diseases, allergies, strokes and heart attacks.
  • It is also planned to make the inclusion of the country of origin of meat, poultry and fish, milk products, fruit and vegetables mandatory. With regard to processed products, this would affect meat, poultry and fish.
  • Food imitations such as analogue cheese must be declared in future.
  • Any products containing nanomaterials must be expressly declared on the package.
  • A small majority was opposed to the so-called traffic labelling, which shows the quantity of ingredients such as fat, salt and sugar in the signal colours red, yellow and green. However, Member States have the option to introduce a “traffic light” at national level.
  • Unfortunately, a minimum font size for labels was rejected, but the European Commission was instructed to prepare guidelines, which would secure readability.

Following the fact, that the party colleagues of the Conservative rapporteur Renate Sommer had voted against the majority of her amendment proposals, replacing them by more consumer friendly texts, the MEP asked to adjourn the sitting to discuss the further procedure of her parliamentary party at the final vote. Afterwards, the European People’s Party supported the full report. 52 MEP voted in favour and only 2 against the amended Directive proposal on Food labelling.

The vote on the report in the plenum of the European Parliaments, expected for June this year, will probably once again bring some excitement. Although some of the issues mentioned above got a small majority, it is not sure whether they will be confirmed in the plenum. A majority in favour of mandatory traffic light labelling can also not be completely excluded.

Further Information:

AK position paper on food information to consumers

Commission proposal on Food labelling

Draft report of the European Parliaments prior to the vote