What are the changes that this law will introduce?
Compared to the current rules (in force since 1990), the new
regulation improves the requirements on information for consumers on
allergens and certain substances that cause intolerance. In addition to
the existing obligation to provide this information for pre-packed
foods, the same requirement was set for non-pre-packed foods. The member
states are authorised to decide on the means through which this
information on non-pre-packed foods is to be given to consumers, but not
on the obligation itself, as is currently the case. This means that the
information requirement will also be applied to food sold in
restaurants and other catering establishments. The current data shows
that 70% of anaphylactic shocks occur when people are eating out.
In addition, the allergens will have to be highlighted on the labels of pre-packed foods.
Nano-ingredients and imitation foods
The presence of nano-ingredients in a food will have to be indicated in the list of ingredients.
Fair information practices
Rules on fair information practices have been reinforced to include
socalled "imitation foods", which are products that look like other
foods, but are made of different materials to those expected (for
example, "cheese" produced from vegetable oils).
The socalled mandatory nutrition declaration is the information on
nutritional characteristics of foods that will have to be presented on
food labels. This declaration covers energy, fat, saturated fat,
carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt. These will have to be expressed
per 100g/100 ml, and may, in addition be expressed as a percentage of
reference intakes (Guideline Daily Amount, or GDA).
The mandatory nutrition declaration will not apply to certain foods,
such as unprocessed foods, e.g. fresh meat or apples, and products that
do not have high levels of energy, such as spices, coffee, tea, etc.
On a temporary basis, alcoholic beverages will also be excluded from
this rule. That exception will be reviewed three years after the entry
into force of this regulation.
Furthermore, if the food package is very small (less than 25 cm2)
the declaration is not required, however the name, allergens, net
quantity and date by which the product must be consumed must always be
displayed on the package, irrespective of its size.
The new regulation also contains rules on the presentation of the
nutrition declaration. The nutrition declaration must be presented in a
single field of vision. In addition, on a voluntary basis, food business
operators may choose to repeat the most important elements of the
nutrition declaration on the front of the package.
The mandatory nutrition information must, where space permits, be
presented in a tabular format. Otherwise, the declaration must appear in
linear format. The energy value and the amounts of nutrients are to be
expressed per 100g or per 100ml. In addition to these forms of
expression and formats, the nutrition information may be given in
graphical form or using symbols.
Consumers used to complain about the illegibility of the information
provided on food labels. The new rules address this problem: the food
information must be presented in such a way as to be easily visible,
clearly readable, not hidden by slogans and other advertising
information, and in clear contrast to the background. In order to tackle
the specific legibility issue, the EU legislator agreed on a minimum
font size for characters used on the label.
Country of origin
Currently the indication of the country of origin is compulsory for
beef and veal and several other products, such as honey, fruit or olive
oil. The new regulation extends the application of this rule to pork,
mutton, goat meat and poultry meat.
Entry into force and application
The regulation will enter into force on the 20th day
following its publication, but producers will have a three-year
transitional period to adapt to it. The mandatory nutrition declaration
will have to be implemented within a five-year period after the
regulation enters into force.
Council enables consumers to make healthier dietary choices - Press flash (pdf)
Q and A on food labelling (pdf)