FSA consults on European labelling proposal
new European Commission proposals for food labelling in which it
seeks views from stakeholders that will help the government
negotiate at an EU level.
The Commission proposal was published at the end of last month, and seeks to make labels across the bloc simpler to understand - but also stricter in terms of the obligatory information. It is now up for discussion by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers, and the final regulation will replace directive 2000/13/EC on general labelling and Directive 90/496/EC for nutrition labelling. One of the main points that will cause consternation in the UK is the issue of what system to employ for front-of-pack labelling. The FSA favours a colour-coded traffic light system, but this has been criticised as being too judgemental by food industry associations including the Food and Drink Federation and the CIAA. In the event, the proposal has favoured the CIAA's Guidance Daily Amount scheme, but also leaves the way open for national schemes in parallel. There are been an expression of concern that this two-pronged approach could damage the single market, and as a consequence the competitiveness of the food and drink sector. In its consultation document, the FSA says such an approach would "permit the continued use of traffic light labelling and could, for example, be used to promote UK Best Practice Guidance on the provision of Allergy information for non pre-packed foods". Other points of contention that have been raised by the food industry include the size of obligatory text on packaging, with the proposal calling for a 3mm minimum. It is feared that this would pose serious design issues, compromise branding and affect consumer recognition of products. The FSA's consultation covers a number of other aspects of the proposal: Simplification - Principles-based approach - Country of origin Food sold loose/allergy labelling Distance selling Alcoholic drinks Transition period In addition to specific questions asked under the above headings, the agency has also said it would welcome comments on: The scope of the regulation Particular areas of concern Practical difficulties, for small businesses for example Alternative suggestions and evidence base Ease of reading and understanding of the proposed regulation The FSA will accept comment until May 2. The full consultation document is available at http://www.food.gov.uk/consultations/ukwideconsults/2008.