§ 42. Mr. Simon Coombs
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on progress in establishing a common European standard for the labelling of fats and other nutritional contents of food offered for sale.742W
§ Mr. Maclean
A European Community "Common Position" was reached on the Draft Nutrition Labelling (Rules) Directive, which includes provision for the labelling of fats, at the Internal Market Council on 21 December last. The proposals will now go to the Euopean Parliament for its second opinion before returning to Council for final adoption. The Council agreed a two-stage approach similar to the Ministry's nutrition labelling guidelines, consisting of a minimum declaration of the "Big 4" nutrients (energy, protein carbohydrate and fat) plus any other nutrient for which a claim is made. A second group of nutrients (sugars, saturates, fibre and sodium) will be added to the "Big 4" six years after notification of the directive, with the declaration of the "Big 4" only continuing to be an option. The giving of nutrition information will be voluntary except when a nutrient claim is made.
The United Kingdom would have preferred to introduce the second group of nutrients immediately but had to accept the phasing-in arrangements in order to obtain agreement on the total package which, on our initiative, includes provision to review the directive, in the light of experience, eight years after notification. A number of the directive's detailed provisions remain to be agreed at Community level but it is intended that those outstanding matters will be resolved within the time allowed for implementation, which is three years after the directive was adopted. Some changes to United Kingdom regulations will be needed, but there is no reason why manufacturers and retailers cannot adopt the main provisions of the directive as soon as it is finalised and I shall be urging them to give as much nutrition information as possible within the format laid down in the directive. In particular, I believe that a full nutrition declaration should be given whenever a nutrition claim is made, to ensure that consumers are not misled by selective claims.
No progress has been made on the directive to enable the introduction of the compulsory labelling of certain nutrients and that remains on the table for further discussion.
§ Mr. Maclean
I announced on 15 November that I have asked the Food Advisory Committee to undertake a comprehensive review of food labelling.