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Energy - Nutrition Labelling - Europe


 Updated 2015-08-15

 The European Regulation on Nutrition Labelling

European Council Directive 90/496/EC of 24 September 1990 on nutrition labelling for foodstuffs

The European regulations on nutrition labelling are administered by the European Commission's Directorate General Health and Consumers and the regulations are listed on the Commissions website.

The European Council Directive 90/496/EC of 24 September 1990 on nutrition labelling for foodstuffs lays down the rules for nutrition labelling in the European Community. The Directive is in force until 13 December 2014.
The Directive is amended by Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers in force from 12 December 2011 except for the provisions on nutrition labelling, which must be fully implemented by 31 December 2016.

Directive 90/496/EC and Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 take into account the Codex Alimentarius Guidelines on nutrition labelling (CAC-GL 2 - 1985) to a great extent and goes  a bit further than Codex Alimentarius concerning the food component definitions:
 

Proteinthe protein content calculated using the formula: protein = total Kjeldahl nitrogen x 6.25;
Carbohydrate "sugars, polyols, starch" meaning any carbohydrate, which is metabolised in man, and includes polyols;
Sugarsall monosaccharides and disaccharides present in food, but excludes polyols;
Polyols alcohols containing more than two hydroxyl groups (amended by Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011);
Fattotal lipids, and includes phospholipids;
Saturatesfatty acids without double bond;
Monounsaturatesfatty acids with one cis double bond;
Polyunsaturatesfatty acids with cis, cis-methylene interrupted double bonds;

Fibre

the material to be defined in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 10 and measured by the method of analysis to be determined in accordance with that procedure (Directive 90/496/EC) - amended by Directive 2008/100/EC  to

carbohydrate polymers with three or more monomeric units, which are neither digested nor absorbed in the human small intestine and belong to the following categories:

  • edible carbohydrate polymers naturally occurring in the food as consumed,
     
  • edible carbohydrate polymers which have been obtained from food raw material by physical, enzymatic or chemical means and which have a beneficial physiological effect demonstrated by generally accepted scientific evidence,
     
  • edible synthetic carbohydrate polymers which have a beneficial physiological effect demonstrated by generally accepted scientific evidence;
Salt the salt equivalent content calculated using the formula: salt = sodium × 2,5 (amended by Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011).
 

It is worth pointing out that in the European regulations, protein can only be calculated as total Kjeldahl nitrogen multiplied by the nitrogen-to-protein factor 6.25. Unlike the Codex Alimentarius guidelines, the regulations do not leave any possibility of using other factors.

Although the definition of fibre has been improved and now follow the Codex Alimentarius Guidelines, the definition is still a bit vague and is open to interpretations (see comments on Guidance documents below).

The energy value to be declared shall be calculated using the following energy factors:
 

Carbohydrate (except polyols) 4 kcal/g17 kJ/g  
Polyols 2.4 kcal/g10 kJ/g  
Protein 4 kcal/g17 kJ/g  
Fat 9 kcal/g37 kJ/g  
Alcohol (ethanol) 7 kcal/g29 kJ/g  
Organic acid 3 kcal/g13 kJ/g
 
Salatrims 6 kcal/g 25 kJ/g  amended by Directive 2003/120/EC 
Fibre 2 kcal/g  8 kJ/g  amended by Directive 2008/100/EC  
Erythritol 0 kcal/g  0 kJ/g
 
  amended by Directive 2008/100/EC

Similar to the Codex Guidelines, the European regulations also defines the tolerance and compliance of the ‘declared values, which shall, according to the individual case, be average values based on:

  • the manufacturer’s analysis of the food;
     
  • a calculation from the known or actual average values of the ingredients used;
     
  • a calculation from generally established and accepted data.

This regulation (the last indent), even more specifically than the Codex Guidelines opens for the use of official food composition database/table data in nutrition labelling.

In 2008, the Commission adopted the proposal for the new Regulation on food information the accompanying impact assessment of the options for the revision of the legislation was also published. The impact assessment is interesting in the sense that it reports on how food labelling/nutrition labelling is carried out in practice.

In order to minimise the possibility of different interpretations of the regulations by the Member States, the European Commission has issued two "Guidance documents", one with regard to tolerances for nutrient values declared on a label with a summary table, and one with regard to methods of analysis for determination of the fibre content declared on a label.


 References

  • The Council of the European Communities:
    Council Directive 90/496/EEC of 24 September 1990 on nutrition labelling for foodstuffs.
     
  • Commission Directive 2003/120/EC of 5 December 2003 amending Directive 90/496/EEC on nutrition labelling for foodstuffs.
     
  • Commission Directive 2008/100/EC of 28 October 2008 amending Council Directive 90/496/EEC on nutrition labelling for foodstuffs as regards recommended daily allowances, energy conversion factors and definitions.
     
  • Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, amending Regulations (EC) No 1924/2006 and (EC) No 1925/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Commission Directive 87/250/EEC, Council Directive 90/496/EEC, Commission Directive 1999/10/EC, Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, Commission Directives 2002/67/EC and 2008/5/EC and Commission Regulation (EC) No 608/2004.
     
  • European Commission, Health and Consumers Directorate-General:
    Guidance document for competent authorities for the control of compliance with EU legislation on:
    Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, amending Regulations (EC) No 1924/2006 and (EC) No 1925/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Commission Directive 87/250/EEC, Council Directive 90/496/EEC, Commission Directive 1999/10/EC, Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, Commission Directives 2002/67/EC and 2008/5/EC and Commission Regulation (EC) No 608/2004 and Council Directive 90/496/EEC of 24 September 1990 on nutrition labelling of foodstuffs and Directive 2002/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 June 2002 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to food supplements with regard to the setting of tolerances for nutrient values declared on a label.
     
  • European Commission, Health and Consumers Directorate-General:
    Guidance document for competent authorities for the control of compliance with EU legislation on:
    Council Directive 90/496/EEC of 24 September 1990 on nutrition labelling of foodstuffs and Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, amending Regulations (EC) No 1924/2006 and (EC) No 1925/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Commission Directive 87/250/EEC, Council Directive 90/496/EEC, Commission Directive 1999/10/EC, Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, Commission Directives 2002/67/EC and 2008/5/EC and Commission Regulation (EC) No 608/2004 with regard to methods of analysis for determination of the fibre content declared on a label. Currently not available from the Commissions website!
     
  • Commission of the European Communities:
    Impact Assessment Report on Nutrition Labelling Issues - SEC(2008) 94.
    Brussels 30/01.2008.

 



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