The European Commission has confirmed that it wants to scrap the existing 25% labelling rule, which allows manufacturers not to label components of compound ingredients comprising less than a quarter of a final food product.

Under a reformed directive, all ingredients intentionally added would have to be labelled.

Brussels’ move was signalled in July in a speech by EU Consumer Affairs and Health Commissioner David Byrne, but his formal tabling of proposals has led to the unveiling of fresh details. These included the fact that manufacturers would be allowed “flexibility” regarding “ingredients used in a very small quantity”, to take account of the technical difficulty of listing all ingredients.

An EC statement added that this would not apply to potential allergens, which must be listed. Brussels defined these as including cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, nuts, soybeans, milk and dairy products, sesame seeds and sulphite concentrations of at least 10mg/kg.

By Keith Nuthall, correspondent