Transparent labels


Nutrition facts. Close-up.

In May this year, more than 150 members of the European Parliament tried to stop the proposal of making the country of origin labelling in processed food mandatory. Not a few, considering that their number corresponds to one fourth of the votes; evident signs of an industrial lobby, concerned more with the quantity rather than the quality of products. The desire expressed by the Parliament in Strasbourg will not be easy to achieve in real terms, because, as is known, the voted resolution is not binding. It is necessary to wait for the decision of the EU Commission, who should take this resolution into account without being bound to it; the same applies to the Councils of Local Governments. Increased risk of rejection of this proposal come forward within the Council, where most objections on the country of origin labelling in food products arise. As advocated by the European Parliament, by making the food supply chain more transparent, mandatory labelling would help improve consumer confidence in food products. The EU Commission, on the other hand, takes a different view (which, de facto, determines the Union legislation), and is more oriented on voluntary labelling as the most suitable solution. Yet, recent surveys show that transparent labels would be very welcome by European consumers, at percentages of over 90%, meaning that voluntary “home-made” labels will not satisfy EU citizens. Furthermore, in the absence of a decision it is possible, as it is already happening, that several Countries independently ask for the authorization of mandatory labels for specific products, thus giving rise to a serious risk of confusion. As if it were not enough that – under the same trade-mark – companies sell products having different quality rules to different European Countries. It is quite clear that all this deserves serious consideration by the European Parliament and Council, so that a common solution can be found within the Union for the labelling of foods, in the interest of citizens rather than of the industrial lobbies of certain countries. The horse-meat found in frozen pasta sold in the supermarkets of the United Kingdom should remain an emblematic case and not a statistically repeatable event. For this reason, perhaps, an appropriate and rigorous rule might not suffice, but would certainly help.