Food and beverages make up the largest manufacturing sector in the EU, with a turnover of €913 billion. The sector is represented by umbrella trade association the Confederation of Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA), which undertakes lobbying on trade and competiveness, consumer policy and environmental issues.
As Spain took up the presidency of the EU from 1 January, Mella Frewen, director general of the CIAA said: “In the current economic climate and political situation, this represents both prestige and enormous responsibility for President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his government.”
The EU High Level Group on Competitiveness of the Agri-Food Industry (HLG) was established in 2008, and last July it adopted a report, a list of 30 policy recommendations and a roadmap.
The CIAA is calling for swift implementation of its recommendations, and expects the HLG to meet in the first half of this year to assess the state of play. Amongst the topics deemed particularly important are the adoption of a holistic approach to policy at the community level; creating a food supply chain forum; studying private labels; nutrition information to consumers; quality; and late payments and promotion.
The industry group has said it expects to engage in discussions with the Spanish presidency over new food information regulations, which are currently being devised. It is lobbying for a system similar to its own Guidance Daily Amount (GDA) scheme. It believes that parallel national schemes would weaken the single market, though it is not against manufacturers providing additional voluntary information.
The Parliament’s ENVI committee is expected to debate a new draft report by rapporteur Renate Sommer early this year, with a view to the first reading taking place in May.
The European Technology Platform ‘Food for Life’ published its Implementation Action plan (IAP) for identified research priorities in October 2008. The three main research goal are: Improving health, well-being and longevity; building consumer trust; and supporting sustainable and ethical production.
The CIAA says increased funding dedicated to food research is required through future calls for proposals through the EU 7th Research Framework Programme (FP7), to complement national and industry financing.
The FP7 theme is ‘Agriculture, Food and Biotechnology’.
The CIAA is hoping that revisions to novel foods regulation will be concluded in the next six months. The first reading has already taken place, but the common position has not yet been communicated.
Some issues still remain for industry, however. These include the relationship between novel foods and health claims regulation, a simplified notification system, and finding a clear way to deal with pending applications submitted under the old regulation once the new one comes into force, to avoid more delays.
It believes that approved novel foods should not be able to be reclassified as medicinal products at a national level, as this could hinder harmonisation. Vitamins and minerals should not fall within the novel foods regulation’s scope.
The CIAA is a founding member of the Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) roundtable, established last year. It is inviting the Spanish presidency to get involved.
Key areas of concern at present include a need for flexibility in the industrial emissions (IPPC) directive, which may move towards reference documents based on best available techniques.
The CIAA says it is “crucial” to safeguard competitiveness for internationally exposed food sub-sectors, particularly when it comes to designing CO2 benchmarks. National packaging measures should avoid throwing up obstacles to the functioning of the internal market, it says.
The CIAA’s document on its priorities for the Spanish president is available here http://www.ciaa.be/asp/documents/brochures_form.asp?doc_id=69