The European parliament is due to vote on the proposal on Wednesday. The proposal has been controversial since the draft was first published in January 2008. Nutritional labelling schemes have been a particularly thorny point, as the industry has preferred guidance daily amounts but some member state governments have championed rival schemes.
Federalimentare has now come out against Chapter VI of the regulation’s proposal, which would give member states some powers for national provisions as well. It wants to see chapter VI wiped out entirely.
“Member States will be able to prescribe mandatory information on Labels in addition to common norms,” it said in a presentation seen by FoodNavigator.com, “with motivations which have always been qualified by the European Court of Justice as unsuitable to justify obstacles to the free trade”.
Examples of such motivations are given as consumers’ protection, prevention of fraud, protection of industrial and commercial property,
The association is concerned that the chapter will allow member states to make mandatory a whole gamut of different schemes, including organic v conventional, C02 footprint, other environmental aspects of a product and packaging, traceability, human rights and fair trade, GMO presence, special diets, raw material source, and the thorny issue of nutritional labelling.
“The same product traded in 27 member states could change 27 times the content of its label, according to the obligatory information prescribed in each member state.”
Federalimentare is concerned that this will not only confuse consumers, but that there will be different levels of consumer protection and control across the bloc, and there will be a detrimental effect on competitiveness in the EU manufacturing sector.
Operators and control authorities will have to continuously conduct research on what rules are applicable in different member states, they warn, and that will bring a whole set of legal burdens.
After this week’s vote by the Parliament, the European Council will have to adopt its position and the proposal will then return to the Environment committee.
It could be years before the information on food packaging actually changes however. MEPs said larger companies should have three years to put the new rules into action, but companies with annual turnover or balance sheet under €5m would have five years.