EC Calls For Stronger Food Labelling Sanctions

The European Commission’s health and food safety commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, has called on EU member states to take stronger action against food manufacturers and food companies that do not fully adhere to food label laws. Specifically, the commissioner pointed to the EU directive stating that all food labels should be clearly labelled and also reiterated that, even when a message is accurately included on the label, it can still be proven to be misleading if an inaccurate impression is given to the consumer.

Andriukaitis was forced to respond after the BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, released a report levelling heavy criticism against the industry and claiming that manufacturers were using grey areas of legislation to help them hide the quality of their products and the ingredients used.

The BEUC Report

The European Consumer Organisation, the BEUC, published a report entitled Food labels: tricks of the trade which highlighted what they believe to be a number of problems with the existing food labelling industry. In particular, they took aim at what they consider to be misleading food label terms. They blamed the EU for not imposing clear definitions of terms like artisanal and natural. Director general of BEUC, Monique Goyens, said that such practices undermine consumer trust and that the reported problems may only be the “tip of the iceberg”.

Misleading Terms

The BEUC report states that more than 80% of consumers in surveys conducted do not trust food labels. The group, which represents 10 consumer bodies from countries around Europe, pointed to three factors that it said was dissolving trust in the industry:

  1. The use of terms like natural and artisanal being used to refer to foods and drinks that contained “industrial” ingredients.
  2. Images of ingredients like nuts being included on those products that contain very little or none of the ingredients pictured.
  3. Food products that naturally contain ingredients including barley and wheat being described as whole grain.

The BEUC said that, because of its actions, a number of industry groups had made changes, and EU manufacturers had improved their labelling efforts. However, they said that the EU needs to improve its oversight and give clear definitions for certain terms, including those listed above.

Clear Labelling

Clear labelling is important to consumers. It enables them to determine what, exactly, is found in a particular food or drink. This can be especially important when it comes to the inclusion of certain allergens, which must be included on the label by law, but consumers are more switched on than ever before. Fitness and healthy eating advocates want a clearer picture of the nutritional ingredients and additives that are found in food products.

As a manufacturer, you should not only consider clear labels as a means of abiding by current legislation. Good quality food labels can also encourage brand loyalty. Once a consumer finds a brand that they trust, they are more likely to remain a loyal consumer of that brand. Simply providing accurate information could help retain repeat business, and printing accurate and updated information doesn’t need to be complex and expensive.

At Label Line we have a large selection of label printing hardware and software that can be integrated into existing manufacturing systems. Alternatively, we can consult with you to determine your exact requirements and then design and install a system that

EC Governance

Chief among the recommendations put forward by the BEUC is that the EC should govern the industry more closely. Specifically, they state that EU oversight should include definitions of terms like organic and natural. This will, the group says, give manufacturers greater clarity.

The EC has responded to the calls, with health and food safety representative Vytenis Andriukaitis, stating that member states must take tougher action against manufacturers within their jurisdictions that fail to meet existing requirements. He said that states must “strengthen their national enforcement activities” but did also say that the idea of greater EC oversight was something that was being considered.

In defence of the EC’s current rules, Andriukaitis said that there are a number of EU laws with the goal of preventing misleading labels. Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 states that “food information shall not be misleading… Food information shall be accurate, clear and easy to understand for the consumer.”

Despite his defence, Andriukaitis has said that they have not ruled out the possibility of greater European regulatory oversight.

Nutritional Information And Ingredients

Laws and regulations regarding food labels are regularly updated. In the UK, we are currently governed by EU rules regarding labels and labelling laws. You can read a guide to current regulations here, but you must include details of allergens found in the food, incorporate nutritional data on the back of the packet, and claims on the packaging must not be misleading. There is other data that must be included, such as the name, address, and contact details of the manufacturer, supplier, or shipper.

If you fail to meet the guidelines, there can be substantial fines and punitive action taken by government agencies and bodies. There is also the possibility of action being taken by consumers, especially in instances where allergens have not been labelled properly.

Label Printing Equipment

Getting your food label design right is important. It needs to impart accurate and reliable information, but it is also a powerful marketing and branding tool. Incorporate your company and product branding, ensure that nutritional information is easily located on the back of the label, and consider adding additional information like the traffic light food labelling system that makes it easier to readily identify the nutritional content of a product.

The UK Government is also putting together new food labelling rules that could be implemented following the completion of Brexit – these would require that a company more accurately reports whether an animal was stunned or not, before being slaughtered.

Label Line has years of extensive experience in supplying, installing, and maintaining label printers and associated hardware. We can help you determine the best solution for your needs. We can also provide you with the label printing consumables that you need on an ongoing basis. Call us today on 0151 546 2222 or email us at sales@labelline.co.uk to discuss your requirements and see how we can help.

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