European Union prepares for changes to food labels

On the heels of proposed changes to U.S. food labels from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comes changes to the European Union (EU) food regulations.

The changes aren’t new regulations, but requirements of laws that are going to finally come into effect this year. EU Regulation 1169/2011, was originally proposed in late January 2008, but wasn’t fully adopted and put into place until November 2011.

The original legislation included mandatory information on processed food labels, as well as origin labeling on unprocessed meats. Highlighting allergens on ingredient lists and better readability were also included.

As with many laws, amendments were made, and these effects are the ones coming in to play in December.

These amendments include 2000/13/EC, which addresses labeling and pre-packaged foodstuffs. The directive essentially says that manufacturers cannot mislead customers with false claims as to the characteristics or properties of the foodstuffs. Required items on the labels include the name under which the product is sold, a list of ingredients and their quantity (or net quantity), minimum durability, special storage conditions or conditions of use and the name of the manufacturer, packager or seller. Labels could also include particulars of the place of origin (if need be), instructions for use when necessary and, for beverages, alcoholic strength by volume. For full information on the directive, click here.

Another amendment included for the December deadline is 90/496/EEC, specifying information on nutrition labels for foodstuffs, specifically on energy value and various nutrients. These nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, sodium and vitamins and minerals. This amendment goes a bit more in depth, relaying what conversion factors for energy value should be considered, what units are to be used, among other small details. For full information on the directive, click here.

Changes to labeling may still not be done yet.

In May, the EU may scrap the “best before” labels on many foods, including coffee, rice, jams and pickles. The thought is that the removal on particular foods would reduce waste from households by 15 million tons. The idea was proposed by the Dutch and Swedish agriculture ministers, and is currently being mulled over by the European Commission. A report with its findings on food waste is expected at the end of June.

While the changes are months away, some manufacturers are getting ready ahead of time, including those in Scotland. The Scottish Food and Drink Federation (SFDF) recently held an event to help manufacturers make sense of the legislation.

See also: 14 Food allergens that must appear on UK labels by end of 2014

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