EU consumers to benefit from better food labelling this week

New EU food labelling rules, adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2011, are set to ensure that consumers receive clearer, more comprehensive and accurate information on food content, and help them make informed choices about what they eat.

The rules come into force as of December 13, 2014. The EU Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis said European citizens will see the results of years of work to improve food labelling rules.

“Key content information will now be more clearly marked on labels, helping people make informed choices on the food they buy. The new rules put the consumer first by providing clearer information, and in a way that is manageable for businesses.”

Some of the key changes to the labelling rules include:

  • Improved legibility of information (minimum font size for mandatory information);
  • Clearer and harmonised presentation of allergens (e.g. soy, nuts, gluten, lactose) for prepacked foods (emphasis by font, style or background colour) 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 labelling 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 labelling for processed food will only apply from December 13, 2016.

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

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

The Commission has been working together 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 labelling rules in a simple way.

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