Press Release 05.12.2023

EU Commission refuses information on food labelling proposal – foodwatch appeals to the Ombudsman

foodwatch now approached the European Ombudsman to demand transparency from EU Commission. The Food Information for Consumers regulation (FIC) is almost one year overdue. Was it industry lobbying that stopped this vital legislation? 

foodwatch demands information from the EU Commission as to why there is still no proposal for the front-of-pack labelling of food and to regulate nutrition and health claims. The Commission should have presented a concrete proposal already in December 2022. However, the "Food Information for Consumers" (FIC) package has still not been published – almost a year later – even though it was promised as part of the Farm to Fork strategy. Now, the Commission has failed to respond within the deadline on one request and has rejected an official enquiry in a second request from foodwatch about the reasons for the delay, stating that such information is "not in the public interest". This raises the suspicions of influence from the food lobby, the international consumer organisation said. One of the access to documents requests has shown how the food industry had lobbied not to publish the FIC (#NutriScorePapers). foodwatch has handed in an official request to the EU Ombudsman today demanding transparency. 

“An official proposal for food labelling has been overdue for almost a year and the EU COM refuses to say why. At the same time, EU documents show that the food industry is doing everything it can to prevent the Nutri-Score as a proposal for labelling. For public health reasons, this is problematic. This raises unpleasant questions!” said Suzy Sumner from foodwatch International. “The EU COM should dispel all doubts about the lobby's influence and disclose now why there is still no proposal for standardised nutrition labelling.” 

Commission refused access to Regulatory Scrutiny Board opinion

foodwatch had submitted a first request for information in May 2023. The Commission then released some documentation of meetings between DG Agri and food lobbyists urging them not to propose Nutri-Score as the mandatory and harmonised front of pack nutritional label in the months leading up to the proposed release date. However, the Commission has not yet released the report of the Regulatory Scrutiny Board (RSB), the body responsible to review the impact assessments and give the green light on whether the legislative package was ready to go out. The response on access to this paper, and a response to the confirmatory application is now long overdue. foodwatch allowed the Commission until 28 November 2023 to finally respond. Since no response has been given, it is now time to appeal to the European Ombudsman. 

In a second access to documents request via the "Ask the EU" portal to the Secretariat General, which is responsible for the RSB, foodwatch received a response on 30 October 2023. It says that two documents fall into the scope of this request, but that access will be denied to both documents, even edited, as it is “not in the public interest". To this response foodwatch has made a confirmatory application (appeal).

foodwatch strongly criticizes the Commission’s refusal to release these documents and will continue to appeal for access. Suzy Sumner: “We believe it is in the public interest to know what are the reasons for not releasing this legislation. A failure to do so only makes citizens believe it is the corporate interest that stopped this legislation seeing the light of day. For citizens to have trust that the EU institutions are working for the public good, we need greater transparency – and not files that disappear from the agenda after lobbying of private interests. “

With nutrition related health crisis on the rise, an EU FOPNL is of real public interest.

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease are responsible for 77% of the disease burden in the European region. They account for the largest part of countries’ healthcare expenditures, costing EU economies EUR 115 billion annually. 
foodwatch is campaigning for the Nutri-Score food traffic light to be introduced as a standardised labelling system in Europe. Scientific studies prove: Nutrition labels on the front of the package highlighted in traffic light colours are the most understandable and can help people shop more healthily. foodwatch is also campaigning for clear rules on nutrition and health claims to prevent consumers from being misled on products which for example claim to have ‘no added sugars’ when they are high in ‘free sugars’ which have the same detrimental effects on health. (see EFSA report below)