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October 15, 2019

European Commission may push for further harmonisation of food-labelling rules

A new team at the European Commission may seek to further harmonise food-labelling rules under a new president, according to a European Parliament questionnaire.

A new team at the European Commission, headed by incoming president Ursula von der Leyen, may seek to further harmonise food-labelling rules, in particular demanding more transparency on nutrition, a response to a European Parliament questionnaire indicated.

The pledge comes from the nominee for the new EU health commissioner role, Stella Kyriakides, a Cypriot parliamentarian, whose EU function includes responsibility for food safety and standards.

In her response to MEPs’ questions, Kyriakides said she would push to harmonise food-labelling rules and impose common EU regulations on the mandatory notification of origin of food content, and animal welfare standards for meat and dairy products, as well as nutrition labelling: 

“I would like to see consistent rules in the EU, ensuring that legitimate demands for more information remain compatible with our single market,” wrote Kyriakides. 

She argued national labelling rules in the EU were currently diverging on these topics. Should she propose legislation, her note to MEPs signalled that the bloc would seek to reduce what she regarded as unreliable health claims. 

Kyriakides said she was “concerned that over one third of foods bearing nutrition claims actually have a high level of sugar, fat or salt”. Arguing that this can “mislead consumers and impact on public health”, she said a labelling system should be “holistic” and “contribute to healthy and sustainable diets”.  

Kyriakides had been expected to assume office from 1 November, along with the rest of the von der Leyen team, but the appointment may now be delayed until 1 December. This follows the rejection of three nominees (not Kyriakides) by the European Parliament.

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