Written Q&A to EU Commission – Home made ice cream

Question for written answer E-005715/12 to the Commission Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE)

(6 June 2012)

Subject: Regulation of homemade ice cream production

In the absence of European legislation establishing when ice cream can be described as ‘homemade’, it is viewed simply as a product made by companies that use homemade ingredients, with good, but not always excellent, results.
Real ice cream makers seeking certification and precise rules that highlight their professional skills, including the requirement for retail outlets to have their own workshop and for the product to be consumed on the same day (within 24 hours of production), are unhappy about this situation. Another important requirement is for ingredients (especially fruit) to be fresh, although fruit can also be purchased, prepared and stored in a freezer at ‐18 °C and used when needed. The reality, however, is not so clear-cut and the characteristics of ice cream makers can vary considerably. Very few ice cream shops prepare everything in store. Some ice cream makers use a semi-finished product, sold by specialist ice cream companies, which consists of a neutral base without additives and emulsifiers.

In view of the above, can the Commission state whether, under the regulation applicable as from 13 December 2014, the unauthorised or improper use of ‘homemade ice cream’ denominations and labels will be classified as food fraud?

Answer given by Mr Dalli on behalf of the Commission

(18 July 2012)

The Commission would refer the Honourable Member to its answer to Written Question E‐002813/2012.

In the absence of EU provisions regulating ‘homemade’ ice cream production, it is up to the Member States to assess, on a case-by-case basis, the potential misleading character and misuse of such voluntary food information. The same regime applies also under the new regulation on the provision of food information to consumers.

The answer to the Written Question E-002913/2012 exlplains why, at EU, level was decided to leave to Member States the possibility to regulate such voluntary terms. In the final part of the answer, on the other hand, Mr. Dalli admit that a harmonisation could be necessary  on these voluntary terms also, but not for now.

Now, my questions:

– Is this last sentence  compatible with the approach “case to case” mentioned in the first answer above?

– What is precisely a “case to case” approach? It seems to me that such a term is a little abused by the EU Commission, which also in the Q&A about the Reg. UE 1169/11 talks in a couple of points of this approach (2.11.1 on added water and 2.1.1. availability of mandatory information on prepacked food). This approach could lead to very different implementations of the FIC Regulation in the Member States, with all the consequences on the free movement of goods and on the correct information to consumers.

“During the consultations that preceded the adoption of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, there was no consensuson the best way forward to deal with the case of voluntary terms such as ‘pure’, ‘home made’ and ‘authentic’. Given that those terms are linked to national culture and practices, it has been agreed that they should be assessed locally, through national case law or guidance set at national level. The regulation, which will apply from 13 December 2014, enhances however the general requirements applicable to voluntary food information. In particular, it provides that it shall not be misleading, ambiguous or confusing for the consumer and, where appropriate, shall be based on relevantscientific data. In addition, the legislation empowers the Commission to regulate voluntary terms, when they are provided on divergent basis which might mislead or confuse the consumer.

Should there be evidence that there is a need to harmonise the use of certain voluntary terms, the regulation provides the means to do so. However, at this stage, the Commission has no evidence that the lack of harmonisation at European Union level of the term ‘home made’ causes any significant distortion in the functioning of the internal market and confusion among consumers.”

Books – “Consumers and companies: the regulation of the food information”

“Consumers and companies: the regulation of the food information” (S. Buffagni, B. Burchi, R. Gallio, A. Tarabella, (edited by) E. Varese) ISBN 978-88-348-3924-9

Consumers and businesses: two sides of the same coin, the recipients opposing the new legislation that redefines the rules on food labelling. The new discipline of information on foods aims, on the one hand to the protection of consumers’ health, through proper and understandable information, and on the other to the proper functioning of markets through the simplification of legislation and reducing administrative burdens for businesses.

In recent years the European Union has committed itself particularly to achieve these objectives, first with the EC Regulation 1924/2006, which has finally regulated the field of voluntary information on the nutritional and health claims, and then with the EU Regulation 1169 / 2011, by which it is regulated again the whole subject of food labelling. Two measures important and essential, long expected and desired, but it can be said that the European Union through these two texts has managed to achieve its objectives?

The co-authors of the book “Consumers and companies: the regulation of food information” tried, each within its competences, to investigate these aspects and to illustrate and analyze the content of individual pieces of legislation, in order to provide the reader with a useful tool to the whole “world” of communication on food.

The text, as divided into 11 chapters, is actually made up of two parts: the first devoted to the analysis and commentary, including diagrams, graphical representations and merchandise considerations of EU Regulation 1169/2011, the second showing a reasoned analysis of the production and consumption of the food in Italy and in Piedmont, and the results of a survey conducted to investigate attitudes towards food labelling of a purposive sample of consumers in Piedmont.

The above mentioned chapter, written by E. Varese, S. Buffagni and R. Gallio, and the other one related to the new challenges faced by the companies to be in compliance with these regulations, written by R. Gallio, are really enlightening. They stressed two key points of the future of food regulation:

1)      What do the consumers understand of all the information available? What do they read? How their behaviour can be modified by the labelling?

2)      Which are the main challenges for the companies who want to be in compliance with these ever-changing regulations?

If you are interested, you can find the book here (only in Italian for now…)