VEGA responds to an FSA consultation on a proposal for a new regulation on the provision of food information to consumers
VEGA's response to an FSA consultation on a Proposal for a new regulation on the provision of food information to consumers:
In addition to nutrition and health information, which is covered quite thoroughly by the proposed Regulation, there are many aspects of food that are of interest to consumers. These include:
1. Whether composite foods contain animal products (such as gelatine or whey) as ingredients or processing aids. In the case of additives with E numbers, there are many that may or may not be of animal origin (eg E470 – E479). It is therefore important to vegetarians, vegans and seekers of cruelty-free foods, to have an overall indication of whether a composite food contains animal ingredients, and if it is suitable for a vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free or any other diet.
2. As with the labelling of organic food, there is a need for consistent standards relating to labelling on environmental and sustainability criteria, such as carbon labels. Claims made relating to environmental benefits of a product should bear as much scrutiny as claims made on health benefits.
3. There is a need for consistent standards of labelling relating to animal welfare criteria, including, for example, definitions of ‘free-range’. Consumers have an interest not only in the country of origin, but how livestock are raised, what they are fed on and method and place of slaughter.
4. Many consumers have strong feelings and concerns regarding genetically modified food and irradiated food. To the extent that some GM and irradiated products are currently permitted in the EU, we support positive disclosure of GM and irradiated ingredients, ie:
Mandatory: “Contains GM…”
Voluntary: “Does not contain GM…” etc
5. We welcome inclusion of ingredients and processing aids in the labelling of alcohol drinks. This should be brought forward to the soonest practicable date.
We appreciate that simplicity and clarity are among the main purposes of the new Regulation and that nutritional information must take priority for front of pack labelling. Some of the above suggested additions (such as details of environmental impact) could be included in ‘back of pack’ information.
Another possibility would be to make product information available through other means than packaging. For example, online or on terminals with bar-code scanners in shops and supermarkets. This might allow a particular consumer (for instance, an allergy suffer) to customise information to their needs.