Reg. EU 1169/11, reform on the horizon

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The revision of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/11, the so-called Food Information Regulation, underwent a public consultation in Brussels, from 23.12.20 to 4.2.21. (1)

The European Commission collected 472 comments from citizens and consumers, supply chain operators and their representations, NGOs and other stakeholders. In view of the adoption of a proposal to reform reg. EU 1169/11, scheduled for September-December 2022.

The Food Information Regulation (FIR) will be updated with regard to the Farm to Fork Strategy, summary nutrition information on the label face, origin and provenance labeling, the
date marking
(expiration date and TMC). (2) However, the primary need of all, legal certainty, continues to be neglected.

Reg. EU 1169/11 and public health

Reg. EU 1169/11 innovated the previous discipline (dir. 2000/13/EC as amended) for having added to the objective ofhigh protection of consumer rights (Art. 169 TFEU) that of public health protection.

‘A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities’ (Article 168 TFEU, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

Thus, consumer information has health relevance in both aspects of food safety, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/controlli-il-ruolo-dellamministrazione-sanitaria/, and nutritional safety (#SDG3).

Reg. EU 1169/11 and Farm to Fork strategy.

The initiative to reform reg. EU 1169/11 first considers extending to consumer information the general objectives of ensuring a high level of protection not only of consumers, health and safety, but also of the environment (Article 114 TFEU). ‘Taking into account, in particular, any new developments based on scientific evidence.’

The EU Farm to Fork (f2f) strategy fits within this framework, in the broader context of the
EU Green Deal
, as the path forward for the green transition of the agribusiness sector in the Old Continent. With a view to, among other things, demanding socio-environmental sustainability guarantees even on food arriving from third countries (SDGs 6,7,8,11,14,15).

Noncommunicable diseases and food-related information

Nutritional safety is a pressing need, in a Europe where more than 950,000 premature deaths from Non-Communicable Diseases(NCDs) attributed to unbalanced diets were recorded in 2019, 300,000 related to alcohol consumption. (2). The latest Global Burden of Disease report (GBD, The Lancet, October 2020) lists diet as the leading risk factor for premature mortality (19.6 percent of male deaths, 13.5 percent of female deaths). (3)

The dietary imbalances under indictment pertain to deficiencies in whole grains (<125g/day per capita), fruits (<250 g), nuts and seeds (<20.5 g) and excess sodium (up to 3 g, or 7.5 g of salt, in daily urine). This is followed by deficiencies in Omega 3 (<250 mg/day), vegetables (<360 g), fiber (<23.5 g) and legumes (<60 g). Widespread and excessive consumption (in frequency and quantity) of ultra-processed foods is estimated to contribute significantly to the health disaster.

Summary nutritional information on the front label

So-calledfront-of-pack (FOP) nutri-labeling has been adopted on a voluntary basis in several member countries. Interpretive labels, as seen, have shown favorable results on consumer choices and thus on operators’ reformulation of products toward a better nutritional balance. (4)

Five options are proposed:

0) confirmation of the status quo (non-harmonized voluntary claims in different member states),
1) Reductive label (summary of values shown in nutrition declaration),
2) Nutrient-specific interpretive labeling (e.g., multiple traffic-light, values and colors for kcal, major nutrients and micronutrients),
3) summary interpretive label, with a simple endorsment logo(endorsment, e.g., healthy logo),
4) graded interpretive label, referring to a scale of values (e.g., NutriScore).

Origin and provenance

Pneumatic pressure from European farmers and consumers toward transparency in the agrifood supply chain has prompted the Commission led by Ursula Von der Leyen to address the issue of origin labeling. (5) The European Parliament, it will be recalled, had already repeatedly urged the Juncker Commission to extend the mandatory indication of origin and/or provenance to milk and meat, including when used as ingredients, and as well as to single-ingredient or significant ingredient products.

Ventilated solutions are different:

– 0) do not change anything. Origin optional for generality of products, subject to specific requirements (at EU or national level) related to individual product categories, (7)

1-3) compulsory indication of origin, on products marketed in the EU market, with various hypotheses for specifying the geographical level:

– EU-non-EU (i.e., origin planet Earth),
– Status,
– Region,

4) Variable approach in relation to product categories.

5) Additional rules for determining the country of origin or place of origin of certain foods and ingredients (e.g., milk, place of milking/processing/packaging).

Expiration date and minimum shelf life

The delicate balance between the needs to ensure safety and reduce food waste was recently addressed by EFSA. (8). The European Commission has assumed three variants:

1) Extend the list of products exempt from the mandatory indication of TMC (‘best before‘, or ‘best before‘), (9)

2) Abolish the durability term (TMC) for non-perishable foods. With the not inconsiderable risk of legitimizing the sale of vintage foods without consumers being able to identify them as such,

3) Revisiting the shelf-life indication system with new terms and visual formats. E.g., ‘preferably by, but good beyond,’ along the lines of Codex Alimentarius, or the use of the color red for the expiration date (‘Bestby,’ ‘Use by‘) and green for the TMC.

The primary – and neglected – need of the agribusiness supply chain.

The impact assessment of the current kaleidoscope of regulations – European and national – on the millions of businesses that are subjected to them, from farm to fork, seems to elude the biased officials in Brussels altogether. Only in Italy, as noted above, reg. EU 1169/11 applies to more than three million businesses and entities that include kiosks where on-demand juices are sold and charitable soup kitchens. (10)

The unregulated coexistence of various levels of standardization causes unacceptable barriers to the free movement of goods. And serious obstacle to the microenterprises and SMEs that still dominate the agribusiness sector in numbers, employment and market share. The reform of reg. EU 1169/11 cannot disregard this consideration to establish that:

– any new national or local rules on matters not expressly harmonized must be applied as of April 1 of the following year, exactly as already provided for European rules, (11)

– The European Commission should establish and maintain a comprehensive database of European standards applicable to food information. Having regard to both vertical and horizontal regulations, (12)

– member states must supplement the above database with additional rules applicable in their territories, after notifying Brussels of the relevant dossiers in accordance with EU Directive 2015/1535,

– standards not included in the aforementioned database (the compilation of which is the respective responsibility of the European Commission and member states) are inapplicable.

Legal certainty, Lisbon Strategy. 2,000 years, and not feeling it!

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) European Commission, DG Sante. Proposal for a revision of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, Food information and composition https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12748-U-atwianie-zdrowszych-wybor-w-ustalanie-profili-ywieniowych
(2) European Commission. Inception impact assessment. Ref. Ares(2020)7905364 – 23/12/2020, blob:https://ec.europa.eu/f01b5155-a764-4571-8a1b-6433b8be982a
(2) EU science hub (2020). EU burden from non-communicable diseases and key risk factors. European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/health-knowledge-gateway/societal-impacts/burden.
(3) GBD 2019 Risk Factors Collaborators. Global burden of 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories, 1990-2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019, Results, Global Attributable Burden. The Lancet, 17.10.20; 396: 1223-49. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30752-2
(4) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. How to solve the nutritional conundrum? News on the label front, review and outlook. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 29.12.20,
https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/come-risolvere-l-enigma-nutrizionale-notizie-sul-fronte-etichetta-rassegna-e-prospettive
(5) Dario Dongo. EatORIGINal! Transparency on origin and beyond on labels kicks in. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 10/14/19, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/eatoriginal-al-via-la-trasparenza-su-origine-e-non-solo-in-etichetta
(5) Dario Dongo. National rules on origin labeling, green light from EU Court of Justice. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 4.10.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/norme-nazionali-su-etichettatura-d-origine-via-libera-dalla-corte-di-giustizia-ue
(8) Dario Dongo. Expiration date and TMC, EFSA guidelines for reducing food waste. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 12/20/20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/data-di-scadenza-e-tmc-linee-guida-efsa-per-la-riduzione-degli-sprechi-alimentari
(9) Reg. EU 1169/11, Annex X, point 1.c
(10) See ebook Dario Dongo. 1169 penis. Reg. EU 1169/11, food news, controls and penalties. Available at https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/libri/1169-pene-e-book-gratuito-su-delitti-e-sanzioni-nel-food
(11) Reg. EU 1169/11, Art. 47.1.b. Standard at the time devised by the writer
(12) The European database must meet the needs of tens of millions of users. Therefore, it must be reliable, as the shameful FLIS(Food Labeling Information System) is not at all. V. Dario Dongo. FLIS – FLOP. The European food labeling database disappoints expectations. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.1.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/flis-flop-il-database-europeo-sull-etichettatura-degli-alimenti-delude-le-aspettative