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Changes on the Way for EU Food Labelling Rules

Under the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, published in May, the EU Commission proposes a number of changes to EU labelling legislation regarding animal welfare, nutritional information and place of origin, with the intention of “promoting sustainable food consumption, facilitating the shift towards healthy sustainable diets”. These proposals are now being progressed and debated by agriculture ministers in the EU Council:

Animal Welfare: The Commission’s proposal to consider options for the creation of an EU animal welfare label, in order to to better transmit value through the food chain, respond to citizen’s demands and help better protect biodiversity, was a key priority for discussion for agriculture ministers over the last 6 months. On December 15th, they agreed a position, inviting the Commission to submit a proposal for an EU-wide logo for food produced under animal welfare standards higher than those enshrined in EU legislation. They also stressed that the labelling scheme should cover the entire lifetime of the animal, including transport and slaughter and should dovetail with existing labelling at national level. While many agricultural ministers highlighted their belief that this label should be a voluntary initiative, NGOs are calling for a mandatory label.

Origin: The Farm to Fork strategy commits the Commission to publishing a proposal on mandatory origin labelling for “certain products” in 2022. On this however agriculture ministers could not agree on a way forward. A position paper calling for the Commission to carry out an impact assessment on the possibility of extending mandatory origin labelling, with dairy and dairy ingredient products highlights as the “first priorities, divided ministers- particularly on the question of which factors the assessment should account for- a consideration critical to determining whether the outcome of such an assessment would be positive or negative.

Nutritional Information: Equally ministers are not in agreement on the matter of front of pack nutritional labelling, which the Farm to Fork strategy proposes be made mandatory. Countries were divided on considerations such as colour coding, which some found useful quick guides for consumers, but others considered overly simplistic. In Ireland we are having this discussion nationally in the context of our new agri-food strategy. ICOS supports the possibility of a harmonised EU system for front of pack nutritional labelling, to support ease of trade across the EU single market, however firmly believes that such labelling should not be mandatory for single ingredient products.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive