Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Labelling what the eye cannot see

During the last week's Parliament's session the proposed by the Commission rules on "engineered nanomaterials" have been rejected. (MEPs object to new labelling rules) The Commission wanted to amend rules on labelling food products when they contained a certain level of nano-particles by adding a label that these products contain "nano" ingredients. Nano-particles may be used to change the taste, structure, colour and flavour of the food, but no one yet can tell what their long term effects on the human body might be. It is, therefore, important that consumers are informed of the presence of nano-particles in the food they are purchasing, so that they may decide for themselves whether to take the risk of such a purchase. (Defining nano-food: a big problem at a very small scale) The European Parliament is convinced, however, that consumers would be just more confused and misled if the currently proposed rules were adopted. First, these new rules may erroneously make consumers believe that the additives that would be labelled as nano particles were newly added to the product, while they might have previously already been a part of its content. Second, the Parliament argues for a lower threshold for an additive to be considered as "nano". European Foods Safety Agency (EFSA) recommends this threshold for additives with a 10% nano-particles threshold (due to uncertainty of the long-term effects of using these particles), while the Commission's proposal sets it at 50%. (Parliament rejects draft EU law allowing nanomaterials in food) It remains to be seen whether the Commission will prepare a new proposal of this law, following the rejection by the Parliament of the first draft.

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