EU: European Council agrees on new labeling rules for food

COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION – Council agrees on new labelling rules for food

The European Council today agreed their position on the Food Information to Consumers Regulations, ready for submission to the European Parliament for Second Reading. The key elements agreed are:

1) A minimum font size for the mandatory information has been re-instated, namely 1.2mm height of a lower case x. Packaging/containers whose largest surface area is less than 60cm2 have a minimum font size of 0.9mm x height.
2) The labelling of the energy value and the quantities of some nutrients (fat, saturates, carbohydrates, protein, sugars and salt) will be compulsory.
3) Country of origin labelling should, as currently, be compulsory if a failure to do so would mislead the consumers.
4) Compulsory labelling of the country of origin for several types of meat (pork, lamb, and poultry in addition to current rules on beef), subject to implementing rules.
5) Within three years after the entry into force of the new regulation the Council will produce a report examining the possible extension of the compulsory labelling of the country of origin to further products (milk, milk used as an ingredient, meat used as an ingredient, unprocessed foods, single-ingredient products, ingredients that represent more than 50% of a food).
6) Certain alcoholic beverages (such as wines, products derived from aromatized wines, mead, beer, spirits, but not alcopops) will be exempt from nutrition labelling rules as well as from the indication of the list of ingredients

7) Non-prepacked food should also be exempted from nutrition labelling, unless member states decide otherwise. Allergens, however, must always be indicated.
8 National provisions relating to nutritional information have been re-instated

The proposed legislation will now go for second reading in Parliament in the new year and the following will happen over the course of the next few months:

1) Approves Common Position/makes no amendments – Deemed accepted and published in Official Journal
2) Rejects Common Position completely – Not accepted and goes no further
3) Amendments proposed to Common Position

It is unlikely that the Common Position will be rejected by Parliament, in which case either amendments will be requested or the text will be adopted. If amendments are requested Council will review during their Second Reading and:

1) Accept the amendments – Legislation passed

2) Reject amendments – Put to conciliation Committee

The Conciliation Committee is not a well sued route in recent times, and is made up of both members of Parliament and Council who will
Agree joint text – If adopted by Council and Parliament then passed as Legislation, if not agreed then not passed

2) Joint text not agreed – Not passed

We expect a final agreed text to be available by the end of 2011.

The responsible Parliament Committee then has 3-4 months to decide whether to advise Parliament to  The European Parliament has the power to throw out proposed legislation if an absolute majority of members of Parliament vote against the Council’s ‘common position’, however this is typically only invoked in extreme circumstances.