Food information for consumers

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The EU is considering strict new food labelling rules to help consumers make healthy choices and tackle obesity, which has become a serious public health concern.

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Overview

Food labelling and advertising has become a topical issue in the fight against obesity (see EurActiv LinksDossier).

A 1990 EU Directive on Nutrition Labelling for Foodstuffs lays down harmonised rules on the presentation and content of nutritional information for pre-packed foods. But the inclusion of nutrition information is voluntary unless a nutrition-related claim is made on the package.

Another EU Directive on the Labelling, Presentation and Advertising of Foodstuffs is the main EU directive on food labelling. It ensures that the consumer gets all the essential information regarding the composition of a product, its manufacturer, the method of storage and preparation. 

Following its 2000 White Paper on Food Safety, the Commission initiated a reform of labelling rules. After an evaluation of existing legislation and a public stakeholder consultation on the issue (see summary of results and individual responses), a revision of EU food labelling rules was announced in a 2007 White Paper on a Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity-related Health Issues.

In January 2008, the Commission finally adopted proposals on the 'revision' of current food labelling rules. The proposed regulation is intended to repeal the current two directives on food labelling.

The EU executive suggests that food labels should be made clearer and more relevant to consumers, and sets out specific requirements for displaying information on the front of packaging. One of the strategic goals of the review is to provide consumers with the necessary information to enable them to make healthy choices.

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