Euro Parliament Blocks “Now Contains X% Less” Food Claim

February 6, 2012

Members of the European Parliament said the legislation, as it is currently written, would not do enough to encourage healthier food formulations.

The European Parliament has halted a proposal for food label claims such as “now contains 15% less sugar,” citing the claim’s potential of misleading consumers. The proposed legislation would have allowed a label claim of “now contains X% less of [nutrient]” for any food or beverage product meeting a 15% reduction of salt, sugar, fat, or another nutrient of concern.

Members of the European Parliament said the legislation, as it is currently written, would not do enough to encourage healthier food formulations. It could even encourage less healthy formulation if marketers prefer to use the new claim over the existing “reduced [nutrient]” claim, which requires a nutrient reduction of at least 30%.

The Parliament said the proposal would have also allowed for nutritional values to be compared to a previous version of a product, regardless of the starting level of the nutrient in question. Products lower in a particular nutrient before reformulation might also be seem less appealing than a similar product reformulated to bear the label claim.

Supporters of the legislation have voiced displeasure with the vote, stressing that the decision disincentivizes new innovation and that healthier reformulation sometimes requires smaller, incremental steps. The proposed legislation would have communicated incremental improvements of products to consumers, said one supporter.

The EU Commission will have to redraft the legislation before Members of the European Parliament give it another look.

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