Nutrition label changes to run into thousands of euros

Related tags European union Nutrition Eu Poland

While the European Commission still seems far from producing a
proposal to amend rules on nutrition labelling, a new study
suggests costs of label changes for the food maker could hit €9000
a product, reports Lindsey Partos.

In 2003, the EU's executive body mooted the idea, to member states, that it would revise the current directive (90/496/EEC) on nutrition labelling.

Two years on, the Commission is still at a 'reflective' stage, with neither new proposals on the table, nor even a plan for a proposal this year.

Despite this, an impact assessment​ funded by the Commission, and made available recently, has come up with some firm figures.

After interviewing 203 companies with a turnover ranging from under €2 million turnover to €50 million, the report concluded direct costs of a label change would fall into the range of € 2,000 to € 4,000.

And if a label required redesigning, the additional costs could be in the range of € 7,000 - € 9,000 per product.

Nutrition labels, the small window of a food product, are currently in the spotlight as industry and government deliberate how information provided thereon could help tackle poor nutrition and obesity, and educate the consumer about healthy diets.

Looking at the costs of laboratory analysis of food, the greater the number of foodstuffs on the label, the higher the costs.

Where the label information only relates to the 'Big 4' - energy, protein, carbohydrate and fat - costs of laboratory analysis may average €57 per product, finds the impact assessment.

If the label requirement were to increase from four to seven items by the addition of sugars, saturatedfatty acids and sodium, the cost would leap up to an average of €256 per product.

"Were fibre to be included in the label the costs would rise to an average € 354 per product,"​ adds the report.

Turning to ingredients calculations, the assessment concluded the cost of calculating nutrition information using computerdatabases can be more than € 70 per calculation.

For those firms with no access to databases, calculations need to be carried out manually, "costing in the region of€ 100 per calculation for simple products, and much more for complex formulae,"​ says the report.

Investigating the current extent of tabular nutrition labelling throughout the EU, the study surveyed 2,954 products in a range of food outlets in four member states: Germany, Poland, Spain and the UK.

The most comprehensive labelling was found in the UK where 75 per cent of all products surveyed were labelled, followed by 54 per cent in Spain, 50 per cent in Germany and 41 per cent in Poland.

According to the study, the most labelled food categories were breakfast cereals, margarine, soups and frozen vegetables.

By comparison, the least labelled were coffee, chewing gum, spices, mustard, vinegar and honey.

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