Brief overview on the Reg. (EU) n. 1169/2011, also known as FIC (“Food information to consumers”).

Following the requests of many of my “non-EU” readers, I publish a brief recap of the new provisions of the Regulation…and some links to useful resources.

As of 13 December 2014, new EU food labeling rules are in force: from this date became applicable the Regulation (EU) n. 1169/2011 on food information to consumers, also known as FIC or FIR Regulation. The aim of the new rules is to ensure that consumers receive clearer, more comprehensive and accurate information on food content, helping them to make informed choices about what they eat. The new Regulation replaces the old Directive 2000/13/EU, which is now repealed.

Some of the key changes to the labeling rules are outlined below:

  • Improved legibility of the information (minimum font size for mandatory information, now 1,2 mm in the most of cases);

  • Clearer and harmonised presentation of allergens (e.g. soy, nuts, gluten, lactose) for prepacked foods (emphasised by font, style or background colour) in the list of ingredients;

  • Mandatory allergen information for non-prepacked food, including those sold in restaurants and cafes;

  • Requirement of certain nutrition information for majority of prepacked processed foods (applicable from 13th December 2016);

  • Mandatory origin information for fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry (Reg. (EU) n. 1337/2014);

  • Same labeling requirements for online, distance-selling or buying in a shop;

  • List of engineered nanomaterials in the ingredients.

  • Specific information on the vegetable origin of refined oils and fats;

  • Strengthened rules to prevent misleading practices;

  • Indication of substitute ingredient for ‘Imitation’ foods;

  • Clear indication of “formed meat” or “formed fish”;

  • Clear indication of defrosted products;

  • Clear indication of added water, especially in meat and fish products.

The Regulation was published three years ago and provides a transitional period for exhaustion of stocks for foods placed on the market or labeled before 13 December 2014 (but this does not includes labels).

Despite food business operators have been given three years to ensure a smooth transition towards the new labeling regime for prepacked and non-prepacked foods, the situation is quite to be clear, especially for non-prepacked foods, where there is not a full harmonization and the EU Commission left space to national legislation.

On this side, there is also an ongoing study on the feasibility of a EU database to facilitate the identification of all EU and national mandatory labeling rules in a simple way. This should offer a user-friendly tool for all food business operators and for SME’s, but it will not be ready at least until the second part of 2015.

Recently, on the DG SANCO website, were published Guidelines related to the indication of the presence of certain substances or products causing allergies or intolerances as described in Article 9.1(c) and listed in Annex II of the Regulation. The document is the subject of a public consultation that will end on 4th January 2015 and it covers also some aspects related to non-prepacked foods.

On 31st January 2013, the EU Commission published the first – and until now unique – document of clarification of some specific provisions: Questions and Answers on the application of the Regulation (EU) N° 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers. More Q&A and guidelines documents are expected to be published in the next few months: they will cover different topics, in particular general labeling, nutrition labeling, the QUID (Quantitative Ingredients Declaration) and specific products’ type (i.e. meat and fish).

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.”