UK: Food industry raises questions on EU labelling regulations
UK food and drink manufacturers have said there are "lots of questions" over how EU laws on food labelling will be implemented.
Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science at the Food and Drink Federation, highlighted the issue of space on packages. "There are a lot of things that need to be put on the label and for the [information] that has changed or that wasn't there before, there isn't yet clear guidance in the legislation on how this should be provided. This means manufacturers may have to start redesigning packs in order to make some changes."
Gallani was speaking at the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum in London last week, which focused on the implementation of EU laws on the labelling of food and the impact the regulation could have on industry and the choices consumers could make when buying products.
Gallani said "motivation and familiarity" were the "key issues that really determine whether consumers use the information on pack". She highlighted the European requirement for both calorie and kilojoule information on front of pack as an additional issue for the UK food industry.
"Calorie information is one best understood by consumers and consumers in this country don't use information based on kilojoules ... unfortunately the European Commission has taken a very very strong view about the fact that it would be in breach of international regulations," she said. "The information now needs to include both calories and kilojoules and we don't understand how this is going to help consumers better understand the content."
The recent recommendation by the UK government for the food industry to use a hybrid system of nutrition labels on food was also a point of discussion.
The labels outlined would incorporate a combination of guideline daily amounts (GDAs), colour coding and the words high, medium or low.
While nearly all the major supermarket chains already use a hybrid system, most food manufacturers have continued to use a system based solely on percentage of guideline daily amounts (GDAs) of nutrients. Following a three-month consultation, when retailers, manufacturers and other stakeholders were asked for their views on FOP nutritional labelling, the Government's announcement last month effectively ruled in favour of the retailers' position and against that held by the food industry.
Gallani did not refer to the position of the FDF, the industry association for food and drink manufacturers, at the Westministe event last week.
A statement issued by the FDF after the Government's announcement fell short of embracing the hybrid system the Government is looking to put in place but said it would engage in further discussions with the DH.
The FDF said: "The UK has led the way in developing approaches to front-of-pack labelling and FDF members have voluntarily provided this information for many years. Per portion %GDA information, which in many cases have been implemented consistently across Europe, helps consumers put the food they eat in the context of their overall diet. Our members are committed to continuing to provide clear nutrition information to consumers and we will be actively engaged in further discussions with the Department of Health following today's announcement."
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