On 11 February 2021, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) initiated a consultation on behalf of the Department of Health inviting submissions on proposed revisions of a number of certain food labelling issues. The Consultation entitled “Consultation on Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling, Nutrient Profiles, Origin Labelling and Date Marking” (Consultation) is intended to advance the broader European initiative to empower consumers to make informed, healthy and sustainable food choices.
The Consultation is part of the European Commission’s (Commission) Farm to Fork Strategy, under the European Green Deal (EGD), to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The EGD also identified that European diets are not in line with national dietary recommendations, and if they were, the environmental footprint of food systems would be significantly reduced. The Irish government’s proposal to legislate for mandatory calorie posting might yield a positive contribution to this reduction. The Public Health (Calorie Posting and Workplace Wellbeing) Bill (Bill) was included on the Spring 2021 Government Legislative Programme (see our update here), but progress is likely to be slow, with little movement since the Heads of Bill were first approved in 2015.
The Commission intends to develop proposals for harmonised mandatory front-of-pack (FoP) nutrition labelling and setting nutrient profiles. According to the text of the Consultation Information, views are sought from stakeholders on four aspects of labelling, namely:
- FoP nutrition labelling
The Commission will consider the following types of harmonised FoP nutrition labelling schemes:
- Nutrient-specific labels – numerical
- Nutrient-specific labels – colour coded
- Summary labels – endorsement logos
- Summary labels – graded indicators
- Nutrient Profiles
It is intended to use the concept of nutrient profiles to determine if a food can make a nutrition or health claim. The objective is to prevent a positive health message (either by way of a nutrition or health claim) on foods high in restricted nutrients such as saturated fat, sugar and salt.
- Origin Labelling
Under the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Commission will consider drafting a proposal to extend origin indication for certain food categories.
- Date Marking
The objective of the Farm to Fork Strategy action on date marking is to prevent consumers from unnecessarily discarding foods past their ‘best before’ date by tackling the misunderstanding and misuse of date marking (the ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates).
Food labelling forms a key part of the Commission’s strategy to inform consumers around sustainable food systems. The Consultation is one part of that process, with the feedback forming part of the Commission’s proposal to harmonise food labelling. The Irish Government’s Bill on mandatory calorie posting aligns with that theme, although it remains to be seen if any timely movement will be made on progressing the General Scheme of the Bill. Submissions to the Consultation can be made through an online questionnaire, which is accessible on the FSAI website. The closing date of the Consultation is 25 March 2021. As observed by Dr Pamela Byrne, FSAI Chief Executive
“We are encouraging everyone who has an interest in this area to contribute to this consultation. The majority of food legislation in Ireland originates from the EU, so taking part and voicing opinions now is paramount to help inform the national position.”
Contributed by Gail Nohilly