EU Proposes Mandatory Labelling of Certain Allergens in Food and Deletion of 25% Rule for Compound Ingredients

Date: May 14, 2003

In September 2001, the European Commission adopted a proposal to amend existing EU framework food labelling Directive (Directive 2000/13/EC) in order to ensure mandatory labelling of certain allergenic substances and to provide more information to consumer on all ingredients contained in food by abolishing the so called "25% rule" for compound ingredients and by abolishing the use of two category names for ingredients. This proposal has been reviewed and amended by the EU Parliament at first reading in June 2002 and by the EU Council in February 2003.

The text of the Common Position adopted by the EU Council provides the following:

Compound ingredients
Current EU food labelling rules require all food ingredients to be listed. However, derogations are provided, in particular for compound ingredients (i.e. an ingredient composed of several ingredients), which constitute less than 25% of the product. In its Common Position, the EU Council seeks to abolish this exemption subject to three derogations. Therefore, full ingredient listing of compound ingredients would become compulsory except in three cases:

    • for compound ingredients whose composition is defined in Community law and that constitute less than 2% of the finished product

    • for compound ingredients composed of a mixture of herbs and spices and that constitute less than 2% of the finished product

    • for compound ingredients that are foodstuffs for which a list of ingredients is not required under community legislation

These derogations would not however apply to any ingredient listed as allergens in new Annex III a to the proposal (see below), in which case they have to be labelled specifically.

Allergen labelling
In addition, current EU food labelling rules do not require the labelling of allergenic substances. In its proposal however, the Commission introduces mandatory labelling of certain allergens listed under Annex IIIa. This list covers the following allergens:

    • Cereals containing gluten (i.e. wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut or their hybridised strains) and products thereof

    • Crustaceans and products thereof

    • Eggs and products thereof

    • Fish and products thereof

    • Peanuts and products thereof

    • Soybeans and products thereof

    • Milk and products thereof (including lactose)

    • Nuts i.e. Almond , Hazelnut , Walnut , Cashew , Pecan nut , Brazil nut, Pistachio nut, Macadamia nut and Queensland nut and products thereof

    • Celery and products thereof

    • Mustard and products thereof

    • Sesame seeds and products thereof

    • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/litre expressed as SO2.

Therefore, these allergenic ingredients will always have to be declared under the list of ingredients and would no longer benefit from any of the relevant derogations laid down under Directive 2000/13/EC, in particular those applicable to:

    • Carry-over additives, processing aids as well as solvents or media for additive or flavouring extraction

    • The categories of ingredients that may be designated by the name of their category (as defined in Annex I of Directive 2000/13/EC) rather than by their individual specific names.

The proposal also provides for the above list of allergens to be updated by the Commission following consultation of the Standing Committee on Foodstuffs (composed of representatives of EU member states).

Other provisions

The proposal also provide a number of new derogations to existing labelling requirements in particular for the manner of labelling ingredients, which constitute less than 2% of the finished product: they do not have to be listed by descending order by weight as required under current EU labelling rules.

It also abolishes the possibility to use the following category names "crystallised fruit" and "vegetable" for the listing of ingredients.

The Council Common Position is going to be reviewed by the EU parliament at second reading in June 2003.

For further information, please contact Lorène Courrège by e-mail at courrege@khlaw.be or Jean Savigny at savigny@khlaw.be