EU moves to help consumers be sure about the food they buy come under scrutiny in this edition of Utalk. The question is from Ivan in Sofia: “Recently new EU rules on food labelling entered into force. Could you please tell us what’s new for consumers and do you reckon that they are really better protected now?”

The response is from Ilaria Passarani, Head of the Food and Health Department at the European Consumer Organisation in Brussels:

The new rules are an important consumer success and a major step towards transparency of what is in our food.

“The most tangible change is about allergens like milk and nuts.
As of today they have to be clearly highlighted in the list of ingredients of all products, while until now, it was mandatory only for pre-packed food.

“Also canteens and restaurants now have to display allergen information and this will make eating out safer and less problematic for allergic consumers.

“In addition, we’ll have more detailed information about some of the ingredients in our food. For example, it is no longer possible to generally indicate ‘vegetable oils’. And manufacturers have now to indicate whether it’s sunflower oil or palm oil or others.

“Furthermore, a minimum font size of 1.2 mm has been set up but still it will be the size of a poppy seed. As of April 2015, fresh meat from goat, poultry, sheep and pigs will have mandatory origin labels, while now it’s only for beef.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait two more years to see another important change which is nutritional information: so salt, energy, fat and sugar will have to be clearly displayed in the back of packs of all products.

We would have prefered to have it now and to have it on the front of the packs to help consumers who are often in a hurry when shopping in order to easily compare different products.”

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