UK lobbying leads to food labeling changes

by Bryan Salvage
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LONDON – Thanks to heavy lobbying in Europe by the United Kingdom, food labeling will be clearer, simpler and more honest, according to the UK’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. DEFRA added that as a result of these efforts, it will be easier for consumers to know what’s in the food they’re buying.

Following a key vote in recent days, the EU agreed to make it compulsory for manufacturers and retailers to clearly state the country of origin of fresh and frozen meat; if any of the main ingredients in foods claiming British origin are actually imported; if there is more than 5 percent water content in cuts of meat such as bacon; nutritional labeling on the back of packs; the types of vegetable oils used – such as palm oil; information in an agreed minimum sized font; allergen information for unpackaged food, including in restaurants; and high caffeine drinks will require additional labeling.

The EU also agreed to enable voluntary provision of calorie information in out-of-home settings.

Britain has also protected its traditional practice of selling by numbers – such as a dozen bread rolls or eggs – and imperial measures, from EU plans to require metric weights on all products, thanks to strong lobbying.

“We’ve fought long and hard for more honest labeling so that consumers can make up their own minds about what they eat,” said Caroline Spelman, environment secretary. “Shoppers will now be absolutely sure that if meat claims to be British, it will be British – reared to the high standards they’d expect.”

“We have led the way in nutritional labeling, pioneering voluntary labeling in the UK,” added Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. “This regulation will now ensure that everyone will have the information they need to make an informed choice about what they eat and help them make healthier choices.”
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