ANALYSIS - What people eat and the nutritional value of food is being brought into sharp focus on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the EU this year, new nutritional labelling laws come into force that will see every food stuff on the supermarket shelf have the labels changed.
And in the US new proposals for mandatory labelling of nutrition facts on food haven were sent out for public consultation at the end of February.
The EU labelling regulation changes that have to be applied by the end of the yewar will see a dozen different nutrition points required to be on the label by law and in a specific font size.
Nutrition labels will have to appear on both the front and the back of the food packs.
Allergens will have to be highlighted in the ingredients list. This can be done in bold type upper case or italics.
Previously, allergens were highlighted in a separate box in the label but this noiw has to be removed.
It will become mandatory to include nutrition facts on all foods except some products such as herbs and spices, tea and coffee and some unprocessed foods.
It is not mandatory to include information about fibre on the label and the “sodium content” of the product will in future have to be referred to as the “salt content”.
The label will no longer be able to carry information about Guideline Daily Amounts. This information will have to be changed to the recommended intake or the Reference Intake.
The nutrition facts have to be in a certain order referring to energy, fat, saturates, sugars, salt and calories or k joules and k cals.
The font size has to be 1.2 mm based on the size of a lower case “x” and if the label is too big to fit on the pack then any marketing or voluntary information has to be removed.
The labelling rules for minced meat have been changed as well so that the product can no longer be referred to as “extra lean”. It has to be referred to as “Lean Minced Meat, Minced Pure Beef, Minced Meat Containing… and Minced Meat of Other Species”.
The percentage of fat content has to be included and the collagen-meat protein ratio also have to be displayed.
The packs will also have to show the country of origin of pork, sheep, goat meat and poultry as well as been displaying where the animal was born and where it was reared. There also has to be a code back to the slaughterhouse.
Similar country of origin labelling is expected for several other products to be introduced at a later date.
All this information will be required n products on supermarket and shop shelves and will also be required on products sold either through catalogues or over the internet.
The UK food safety advisory body Campden BRI believes that to change one label on a product will cost a company £3,260.
Speaking at the recent Foodex exhibition in Birmingham, Stephen Spice the head of regulatory affairs at Campden BRI said: “It is the biggest shake-up ever of food labelling.
“Every food and drink label will have to change and the deadline is the end of the year.
“We are already a long way through the transition period and if companies have not started to address the question, they are running out of time.”
In the US the changes are designed to address criticism over the misleading nature of current labelling, particularly in terms of portion size and additives.
The proposed new label will require food producers to include:
- Specific indication of added sugars, as distinct from those naturally occurring.
- Larger font size and more prominent ‘Calorie’ figure.
- More prominent display of the number of servings per package, and replacing the general ‘Amount per serving’ with a specified serving size, e.g. ‘Amount per cup’.
- Vitamin D and Potassium contents.
- Actual mg quantity of all vitamins and minerals, instead of merely percentage.
- Dual column labelling to represent both ‘per serving’ and ‘per package’ amounts.
- The FDA also plans to update current recommended Daily Values and serving size requirements, to reflect realistic consumption habits.
The proposals, were produced in February and sent out for public consultation and the Food and Drug Administration has set an industry grace period of two years for food producers to effect the changes.
“Food importers to the US should be aware of these new requirements, and reconfigure their US packaging accordingly within the grace period,” said Anna Power from the North America Office of Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board.
“This will mean the inclusion of both the general elements required on US Nutrition Facts not required on EU labels – Calories from Fat Servings per Container, Trans Fat, Cholesterol, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, the % Daily Value column and the Daily Values footnote – as well as the addition of the requirements detailed above.
“US industry associations GMA and FMI have responded by launching a $50 million campaign promoting their own voluntary nutritional label ‘Facts Up Front'. This label displays four nutritional indicators – calories, saturated fat, sugar and sodium – visible on the front of food packaging, similar to the front-of-pack ‘traffic light’ system in use in the UK.
“The associations maintain that the system will compliment the FDA proposals.”
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