Organised by the Dutch Ministry for Health, Welfare and Sport and the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA), the conference will aim to provide a platform for open discussion about important food labelling issues.
The event, which will run from the 15 to the 16 February in Rotterdam, will also focus on the future of food labelling and the role of the label itself.
It certainly comes at a critical time for the food industry. The debate over food labelling appears to have reached a crossroads, with a major schism opening up between those arguing that self-regulation is the way forward and those arguing that uniform labelling laws must be established in order to avoid confusion.
The UK's FSA for example recently backed a 'multiple traffic light' (MTL) labelling initiative. This scheme, designed to provide at-a-glance information on whether a food is high, medium or low in total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt, follows research undertaken in June which sought to identify which of four possible front of pack schemes would help most people identify healthier food options when shopping.
However, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) believes that new guideline daily amounts (GDAs) on food packaging is the best means of empowering consumers with vital nutritional knowledge, and challenges the FSA's belief that a traffic light system is the most widely supported labelling system among consumers.
Many sectors of the food industry have already introduced their own signposting schemes in order to counter accusations that the food industry has not reacted adequately to growing health concerns.
The situation, then, appears to be that while industry, government and consumers understand the need for good labelling, there is as yet no consensus over the best means of achieving this.
It is hoped that the Rotterdam conference will help bridge these differences. Attendees will be asked to assess what stakeholders' views are on the current situation, what needs are not being met by current labelling requirements and whether some information required on the label is less important than other information.
Other issues include achieving an optimum compromise between mandatory information and label clarity, and making product information easily available to the consumer.
The organisers say that these issues will be addressed in presentations from the food manufacturing, food retail, consumer, and small business perspectives, and that there will be further opportunity to debate these issues in workshops on the first day.
The second day will provide an opportunity for officials from Member States to debate the issues further. Simultaneous translations will be provided in French, German, and English.
Those interested in registering can click here.