December 12, 2014 / 3:50 PM / in 5 years

EU seeks to end misleading food labels from Saturday

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU shoppers and restaurant-goers should know more about what they are eating under EU labeling law that takes effect from Saturday to protect allergy-sufferers, promote healthier eating and give consumers an informed choice.

The law is supposed to prevent consumers from being misled and insists on minimum font sizes to ensure they can read the information they are given.

Food producers will have to label meat that appears to be a single chunk but in fact is made of several pieces glued together as “formed meat”.

Packaging cannot feature pictures of fruit if the product, such as a yoghurt, contains no fruit. Allergens, such as nuts, will also have to be listed, including in restaurants and cafes.

“The new rules put the consumer first by providing clearer information, and in a way that is manageable for businesses,” Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU Commissioner in charge of health and food safety, said in a statement.

The legislation was agreed by EU member states in 2011, but the food industry was given three years to get ready for the implementation date of Dec. 13.

With the exception of food already in stock, produce on sale from Saturday will have to comply with the new requirements on clear labeling.

In addition, rules on nutrition information, for instance the salt, fat and calorific contents, are also being phased in. They are currently voluntary but become mandatory from Dec. 13, 2016.

Members of the European Parliament from across the political spectrum welcomed the rules as marking the end of misleading information.

“Consumers are given the opportunity of informed choice,” said the biggest group in the European Parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party.

Representing the European Greens, Bart Staes said consumers would be able to know where meat, for instance, came from and so whether it had involved long-distance transportation of animals.

“Vegans and vegetarians and people with allergies will have an easier time finding what they want,” Staes said, although he added he was unhappy about the exemption for alcoholic drinks, which are often high in calories.

Editing by Philip Blenkinsop

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