EU ruling means food labels will be true and accurate

In a move to cut down on the number of misleading claims on food product labels the European Parliament has passed a new set of laws.

In future food and drink producers in the European Union using phrases such as "low fat", "high energy" or "low alcohol" on products will have to give far more definitive information.

Statements such as "low fat" will have to meet a standardised definition agreed by the EU and any foods which claim to have a nutritional value will have to clearly demonstrate on the same label if they are also high in fat or sugar.

The new laws will come into force before the end of the year, and are part of the EU's fight against obesity and ill-health and will guarantee that consumers can rely on the truth and accuracy of information on food labels.

The new laws will apply to all food or drink products made or sold for human consumption within EU nations but will not cover claims made on cosmetics, medicine or pet food products.

Many experts have welcomed the initiative as labels have a major influence over consumers' choices and they say the claims on them should not be false or misleading.

The new rules will ensure a producer can only make a claim concerning fat, sugar, salt or energy if it meets certain standards.

Under the new EU laws, those claims already made and those in the future will be subject to the opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

EFSA must give its opinion within five months. If the agency demands further information from the applicant, a further two months is allowed.

Fresh food such as fruit, vegetables and bread are excluded from the new rules, while products with trademarks can continue to be marketed in their current form for another 15 years.

The new laws will apply to all food or drink products made or sold for human consumption within EU nations but will not cover claims made on cosmetics, medicine or pet food products.

The separate law on vitamins draws up an EU list of approved vitamin and mineral products that can be added to food, and criteria for setting minimum and maximum levels.

The new rules ban vitamins or minerals to be added to fruit, vegetables or meat products, and alcohol drinks, with the exception of fortified tonic wine.

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