EP: Question for written answer - Subject: Nutritional labelling and WHO guidelines

27 September 2018
Question for written answer E-004886-18
to the Commission

Mario Borghezio (ENF)

On 27 September 2018, the Third High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases is being held in New York. The news had spread — it was immediately denied by the World Health Organisation — that a proposal would be mooted there to apply a ‘black stamp’ to particular foods such as extra virgin olive oil, Parmesan and raw ham on account of their salt or fat content.
Despite the denial, a proposal for a sort of ‘nutritional labelling’ on the French or British model (the so-called ‘traffic light’ system) remains on the table. Such a system would be very damaging for some high-quality Italian foodstuffs and could have the paradoxical effect of discouraging the consumption of natural foods in favour of sweetened products.
In view of the above, can the Commission say:

1.Does it not think that recommending a nutritional labelling scheme would be misguided because a proper diet is based primarily on the balance and variety of the various foods consumed and not on individual products?
2.Does it not consider that a proposal for a labelling of origin scheme would be more useful, even for processed products?

Answer given by Mr Andriukaitis
on behalf of the European Commission
1) Improving general nutrition of EU citizens is an important Commission objective. The Commission is supporting the promotion of healthy dietary patterns that are following relevant national and international dietary guidelines and nutrition recommendations. Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers[1] allows, on a voluntary basis, the repetition on the front-of-pack of the information provided in the nutrition declaration, in order to help consumers to see at a glance the essential nutrition information when purchasing foods. According to Article 35, additional forms of expression and/or presentation (e.g. symbols, graphical forms) than those contained in the nutrition declaration can be used by food business operators or recommended by Member States, provided they comply with cumulative criteria set in the Regulation. Front-of-pack nutrition labelling - if meaningful and well understood by consumers - can be a useful tool to support public health objectives.

2) It shall be noted that the question does not specify how origin labelling relates to nutrition aspects. Article 26(2)(a) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 requires to indicate the country of origin or place of provenance on mandatory basis, where the failure to indicate this might mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the food. Article 26(3) specifies that where the origin of the final food is given and is not the same as that of its primary ingredient, the origin of the primary ingredient shall be also given. The modalities of providing this information on the label are harmonised in an Implementing Act[2]. The Commission underlines that front-of-pack nutrition labelling cannot be replaced by origin indication due to their different purposes.

[1]     OJ L 304, 22.11.2011, p. 18
[2]     OJ L 131, 29.5.2018, p. 8