The motion, endorsed by member states, would have allowed food operators to advertise healthy reformulations by showing a ‘X% less’ message on packaging, but was rejected by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) as potentially confusing for consumers.
Enrico Frabetti, deputy secretary general at the Liaison Centre for the Meat Processing Industry in the EU (CLITRAVI), told GlobalMeatNews: “From the meat processing industry perspective we can say that it is a big pity. The claim ‘now contains X% less...’ would have been really beneficial to many meat products as this would have encouraged reformulation and allowed some product categories (such as uncooked meat products, like dried hams or salami) to communicate their efforts to produce healthier products in a step-by-step manner.”
MEPs argued that the new measure could mislead consumers, making ‘15% less...’ products appear healthier than the current ‘reduced...’ label, which requires processors to cuts salt, fat or sugar by at least 30%. But Frabetti believes that it would have encouraged meat processors to reformulate their products gradually.
“You have to realise that a 15% reduction of, for example, salt or fat in meat products (or at least in some) is already a challenge in terms of food safety (and also of taste, which is important as consumer acceptance is necessary) and that a number of meat products will unlikely be able to reduce salt or fat sufficiently to get the ‘reduced’ claim (30% less),” he added.
FoodDrinkEurope, the association representing the EU food and drink industry, also rejected the decision, saying it was detrimental to both consumers and the food sector.
“Firstly, it means that consumers will not be informed of important reformulations to foods so that they can make an informed food choice thus driving positive changes in dietary habits. Secondly, it serves a ‘bitter pill’ to food operators who have strived to voluntarily reformulate their products in line with consumer taste and public health expectations over the years,” said the organisation’s president, Jesús Serafín Pérez.
At the European Parliament, the veto registered 393 votes in favour, 161 against and 21 abstentions. Chair of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee Matthias Groote said: “I am pleased that the European Parliament has defended the interests of health-conscious consumers, who need to be able to make clear comparisons when shopping for food.”
Frabetti added that CLITRAVI was “disappointed” with the decision after the effort made by member states and stakeholders to reach a compromise. “You may question whether MEPs really understood the issue... This decision definitely discourages investments in research and innovation. We trust that –in one way or another- the European Commission will try to re-propose such a claim,” he said.