SPAIN – Draft Royal Decree on quality standard for flours, meals and other products of cereal milling

Spain notified to the TRIS service (Directive 98/34/EC) of the EU Commission the following draft decree. It intends to establish basic quality standards for the preparation and sale of flours, meals and other products of cereal milling intended for human consumption.

Existing technical sanitary regulations for the preparation, movement and sale of wheat meals and flours and other milling products thereof, for human consumption, date from 1984. Given the changes undergone by the sector for the manufacture and sale of cereal meals and flours since then, and the hygiene and sanitary changes that have had to be made to adapt the content of said regulations to horizontal Community provisions relating to foodstuffs, said standard needs to be reviewed and updated, primarily to expand the scope to cover all cereals, not just wheat, include new product names and amend the terms used in certain existing names.

End of the standstill period: 28th December 2015.

Regarding mandatory information it states that (art. 5 par. 2):

a) The legal description of the products covered by Article 2(5) to (17) shall be as indicated in each section and by a combination of same where appropriate. They may include usage instructions or recommendations.

b) The instruction “Keep in a cool dry place off the floor” shall be included on the label.

c) The best-before date shall be accompanied where necessary by a reference to the storage conditions to be observed to ensure conservation until that date.

Regarding voluntary food information, the label may include information on the following:

a) The bread-making quality of the wheat flour, using the descriptions for different types (very strong, strong, medium strength and bread-making) included in the annex, as a function of the characteristics of the flour. This information must be included in the same visual field as the product description.

b) The quality of the fine hard-wheat meals, indicating “superior-quality meal for making pasta” or “meal for other industrial uses”, as provided for in Article 4(2)(c).

c) Any other specific technical or product-quality characteristics, pursuant to the regulations on the labelling of foodstuffs, that can be demonstrated using internationally recognised analytical methods, in order to guide users.

In products intended for industrial use, the mandatory information provided for in this standard and in the applicable regulations on foodstuff labelling may be included exclusively in the commercial documents accompanying the product at the time it is delivered, or before this time, provided that the following is indicated on the packaging or container: “Not intended for retail sale” or “Product intended for industrial use”. In the case of bulk sale for industrial use, the information required pursuant to this article must be included in the related shipping documentation.

EU – Breaking news on allergens labelling

Last week we had great movement around this topic.

DG Sanco opened a public consultation on Guidelines relating to the provision of information on substances or products causing allergies or intolerances as listed in Annex II of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.

The consultation aim is to gather opinions from consumers and stakeholders about the draft document. The consultation will be closed on 4th January 2015.

For the pre-packed foods the rules are quite clear and the main topic is around gluten: the Commission suggest to emphasize not the word “gluten” but the name of the cereal (i.e. wheat, barley, …).

For non pre-packed food, the following Q&A give an idea of what is the line of the Commission and the space given to Member States legislation (see 44.2 FIC Reg.).

Can Member States allow, through national measures, the provision of information on substances or products causing allergies or intolerances used in the manufacture or preparation of a non-prepacked food, only and simply upon request by the consumer?

The provision of allergen information “upon request” is not to be considered as a “means of providing information’. However, in a spirit of a pragmatic approach, indicatively, national measures may stipulate that detailed allergen/intolerance information regarding the manufacture or preparation of a non-prepacked food may be given upon request by the consumer, provided that the food business operator indicates in a conspicuous place and in such a way as to be easily visible, 11 clearly legible and, where appropriate, indelible, that such information can be obtained upon request. This combination would already indicate to the consumer that the non-prepacked food
concerned raises issues relating to allergen/intolerances and that such information is available and easily accessible.

The guidelines should be read in conjunction with the legislation itself. The examples it contains are given for illustration only. The guidelines and examples given in the document cannot be regarded as official interpretation of
the legislation, this being the exclusive reserve of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Moreover it is not a final document, but is better than nothing for our food business operators  in light of the fact that in a week from now the FIC Regulation will enter in application.

Few days before the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a Scientific Opinion on the evaluation of allergenic foods and food ingredients for labelling purposes.

The Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA Panel) updated its previous opinions relative to food ingredients or substances with known allergenic potential listed in Annex IIIa of 2003/89/EC, as amended. These include cereals containing gluten, milk and dairy products, eggs, nuts, peanuts, soy, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, celery, lupin, sesame, mustard and sulphites. The opinion relates to immunoglobulin (Ig)E- and non-IgE-mediated food allergy, to coeliac disease and to adverse reactions to sulphites in food, and it does not address non-immune-mediated adverse reactions to food. It includes information on the prevalence of food allergy in unselected populations, proteins identified as food allergens, cross-reactivities, the effects of food processing on the allergenicity of foods and ingredients, methods for the detection of allergens and allergenic foods, doses observed to trigger adverse reactions in sensitive individuals and risk assessment methodologies that have been used to derive individual and population thresholds for selected allergenic foods.

The huge opinion (286 pages) has many interesting point, but cannot cut clear two of the main issues linked to the possibility to establish thresholds for labelling purposes: which doses trigger adverse reactions (too many variables) and which methods use to detect allergens.