UK to negotiate changes to EU labelling proposals

By Karen Willmer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Eu, United kingdom

UK bakery and confectionery companies face higher costs under
proposed EU labelling requirements, according to
the country's food regulator.

The EU's recommendations, which will be considered in consultation with national regulators, are meant to harmonise laws among the 27 member states, making it easer for companies to trade across borders. In a consultation assessment of the impact the proposals would have on UK food manufacturers, the UK regulator has outlined its negotiating position when the EU meets to consult with national authorities. The provisions under review include those on fortified flour, flour confectionery, manner of presentation, minor accompaniments and added ingredients. In some cases the Food Standards Agency (FSA) supports the EU's additional requirements, in others it wants some amendments in a bid to keep current UK provisions. The UK's Food Labelling Regulations 1996 states that food should be marked or labelled with certain requirements such as the name of the food, a list of ingredients, the amount of a named ingredient and any special storage conditions. "The national provisions within the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 -- as amended -- have evolved over time in response to domestic need, and have so far been unaffected by EU law,"​ said the FSA. The fortified flour provision under review is contained in the Bread and Flour Regulation 1998. The UK requires the mandatory addition of calcium, iron, niacin and thiamine to white and brown wheat flour. White and brown wheat flour to which only these nutrients have been added from the requirement are currently exempt from bearing an ingredients list in the UK. Flour to which these nutrients have been added need only indicate "flour" in the ingredients list, however under the EU review, these products would not be exempt from listing the ingredients. The biggest concern is the cost of the change, particularly to smaller businesses, the FSA stated. The regulator noted the change could cause a small price increase in products from smaller manufacturers in order to cover any high short-term costs involved. The FSA also noted that the change could hurt UK domestic sales and exports of such products consumers may avoid the products made with fortified flour. In a consultation document, the FSA decided the best option would be not to appeal against the proposed EU legislation, but to ask for the inclusion of a threshold limit, below which manufacturers would not have to list such additives. Another provision that would be affected by the EU proposals include one that would require declaration of additional ingredients that have been added to various dairy products, vinegar and foods containing such items. Currently, the UK does not require such additives to be labelled. The FSA does not support the EU position, stating the change would be "highly costly" for industry and might prevent companies from developing innovative products. The flour confectionery provision is also under review. In the UK flour confectionery products packaged in crimp cases or wholly transparent packaging are exempt from full labelling requirements, provided they are marked with a name, lot mark and price. The EU proposal would require all manufacturers to label the ingredients in all flour confectionery products. The FSA estimates that the removal of this exemption would affect about 100 small bakeries, 100 wholesale bakeries and 50 or more small outlets providing food and snacks. The regulator also estimates that the change would cost the total cost for small retail bakeries add up to £1.35m in the first year. The FSA proposes not to fight the change as it is unlikely the UK loophole would be adopted at the EU level. Another change would affect labelling requirements for accompaniments to foods such as small packages of ketchup. The FSA supports the change, and would like to put pressure on the EU to increase the small package size allowance in order to include allergen information. The FSA said its position would benefit consumers more, despite the potential cost impact on small businesses. In outlining its negotiating positions, the FSA said it has consulted industry organisations representing consumers, farmers, bakers, dairy and soft drink companies. Public consultation on the proposals ends 31 August.

Related topics: Ingredients

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