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After six years of mandatory nutrition labelling on food, a review is underway. Around half of the EU countries are in favour of voluntary

Nov 11, 2022

Front-of-pack nutrition labelling and its implications for sustainable food labelling were the focus of a conference hosted by the Czech Presidency in Brussels yesterday. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the forthcoming revision of the current nutrition labelling requirements, based on the Farm to Fork strategy. The potential impact on small farmers and producers must also be considered before new rules are introduced.

"We are discussing a topic that will affect the majority of food producers and consumers in all Member States. Harmonised nutrition labelling on food has only been mandatory across the European Union since the end of 2016. In order to ensure that the nutrition information provided has an adequate impact on the average consumer, the adoption of nutrition labelling has been based on simplicity and clarity. Before adopting new obligations, we need to carefully consider the rules already in place and the benefits and impacts of any potential changes to them. At the same time, we should consider whether it would be a solution to focus more on educating consumers so that they can actually use the information already available to them," said Jindřich Fialka, Deputy Minister of the Food Section, at the opening of the conference.

This topic was already included by the Czech Presidency at the AGRIFISH Council meeting this September. It showed that about half of the member states favour the voluntary nature of the new nutrition labelling on the front of the packaging. Already the current requirements for nutrition labelling of food in the form of a table include rules for nutrition labelling on the front of the package.

Conference participants mentioned that any new EU harmonised nutrition labelling system must be science-based, simple, easy to understand and reflect the portions of food consumed. Consumers should also be educated about the appropriate amount of food intake. Experts commented that careful consideration should be given to the introduction of new obligations that could impact most on small farmers and producers. However, a major negative impact on all food producers could also be expected if the new system categorises food by colour in a simplistic way into 'healthy' and 'less healthy' categories.

For example, 90% of PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) food products would be labelled red (least healthy) in the Nutriscore system because they contain milk and meat, even though they otherwise represent excellent European agricultural food production. This could also discriminate against high quality foods among consumers. The new system should therefore, above all, not be discriminatory. Attention should also be paid to the adequate evaluation of highly processed foods and to avoiding poor evaluation of basic food commodities.

The need to educate consumers more so that they are able to make use of existing food information when formulating a healthy diet was also strongly expressed at the conference. The results of the Brussels meeting will be presented by the Czech Presidency at the AGRIFISH Council of Ministers in December. The conference was attended by representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Czech Food Chamber, farmers and producers.

Vojtěch Bílý
Spokesman of the Ministry of Agriculture