Friday, 22 July 2011

How many calories/vitamines/etc. are in...? - new Regulation on Food Information

This is a busy period of the year at the universities (last exams, grading thesis, etc.), despite many students thinking that we are holiday-ing the whole summer. Still, I feel a bit guilty about not updating this blog in the past two weeks. I will try to compensate in the next few weeks, although it might be difficult to find news regarding European consumer law, due to the holiday period of the CJEU and other institutions.

One thing that I am late reporting and commenting on is the adoption of a Regulation on Food Information for consumers on the 6th of July 2011 (press release of the Commissioner John Dalli may be read here; consolidated version of the Regulation may be found here). This is not a mainstream subject of consumer protection, since I guess it is not as sexy as air passengers' rights or online auctions, but it still applies to everyday transactions that consumers undertake. How so? Well, whenever we do our groceries, go to restaurants etc. and we are in doubts whether to buy a certain product or not, we often look at the information that was placed on its labels. Unfortunately, often the information we want to find (being a woman, I can risk using a stereotype as an example: number of calories per 100 grams) either is not placed on the label at all or gets lost among other less important to us information. This new Regulation will make the consumers' lives easier by obliging producers and traders to make sure that: the information is not given in a very small font (so that consumers can easily read it), the information contains mandatory nutrition information (no more wondering what kind of meat may we find in a sausage, e.g.), the information contains mandatory information on allergens (interestingly this will apply also to foods sold in restaurants), the information on country-of-origin labelling for meat from pig, sheep, goat and poultry (I wonder why cow is not included on this list?).

What is missing in this Regulation that could have put consumers in an even better position? E.g. an obligation to place this mandatory nutrition information on the front of packages. Consumers will still have to pick up the product and turn it around if they are interested in this information. Also, interestingly, alcohol is not seen as a food product to which this nutrition labelling requirements will apply.

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