‘I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter!’ When it comes to transparency you can’t get much clearer than Unilever’s famous exclamation-turned-margarine-brand. But new labelling rules to prevent one food masquerading as another should distinguish between intent to mislead and innovations that may benefit consumers.
The European Parliament’s Environment (ENVI) Committee has this week insisted that the new food labelling regulation include a provision that prevents foods being labelled in such a way as to create the impression they are a different food.
“Where an ingredient has been replaced, this should be clearly stated on the label,” said the Parliament’s post-vote statement.
Few would claim that dressing a food up and sending it off to market disguised as another, with no mention on the pack – front or back – would be a reasonable or responsible approach. For a start, allergy sufferers would be eating in the dark, completely unwitting to whether the next bite could be their last.
That’s why ingredient panels and allergen labelling rules exist, after all.
But rapporteur Renate Sommer, drew attention to an important point after the vote: One person’s imitation food is another’s innovation – and stigmatising products that are made with non-traditional ingredients risks putting the brakes on innovation, the driving force of the European food industry that gives it a competitive edge.