Supplements set to earn reprieve from tough new labelling rules

Many suppliers of dietary supplements look set to escape onerous new European labelling requirements after MEPs voted to exempt smaller packs from a key requirement in the EU's 'Food Information to Consumers' proposal.

The European Parliament's Environment, Public Health & Food Safety Committee voted recently on more than 800 proposed amendments to the proposal, which will eventually become a regulation setting obligatory labelling requirements across the EU.

Among those changes to the proposal adopted by the committee was an amendment stating that a mandatory nutrition declaration must be placed on packs of food and drink products, including details of no less than 10 nutrients:

  • energy
  • fat
  • saturates
  • sugars
  • salt
  • protein
  • carbohydrates
  • fibre
  • natural trans fats
  • artificial trans fats

The decision — which will be voted on in May by all MEPs — has raised concerns that manufacturers will be forced to fill their packs with so much information there will be little room left for brand messages.

"The most worrying point is that an amendment also adopted would require the mandatory nutrition declaration of the 10 items to be indicated on the front of pack," said Miguel Fernandes da Silva, adviser at Brussels-based consultancy EAS. "This, combined with yet another amendment requiring a mandatory indication of the energy content also on the front of pack, in the bottom right-hand corner in a font size of 3mm and surrounded by a border, would lead to very full fronts of packs indeed."

Mella Frewen, director general of European food and drink suppliers' trade body CIAA, agreed: "On nutrition labelling, particularly with regard to front-of-pack, there is a fear of information overload, leading to widespread consumer confusion. Ahead of the plenary vote in May, CIAA will continue to closely follow the discussions on this key dossier to seek support for the efforts and commitments implemented on a voluntary basis, such as the CIAA Guideline Daily Amounts scheme, over the past number of years."

Two additional amendments adopted mean the smallest packs will not have to carry this information. The first states that food packaging where the largest surface is an area of less than 75cm2 would be exempted from the mandatory nutrition declaration.

Another says that packages with the largest printable surface at less than 80cm2 should only have to carry the name of the food, allergens, net quantity, use-by date and energy content. Either of the amendments would see many suppliers of dietary supplements, and food and drinks sold in small packs, escape the toughest of the regulation's labelling provisions.

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