The revision of the Food Information to Consumers Regulation | Workshop Report

About the workshop

On 6 June 2023, EPHA organised a workshop aimed at discussing the topic of the European Commission’s revision of the Food Information to Consumers (FIC) Regulation, initially expected for the end of 2022. 

Food information to consumers is considered a key policy to support consumers in making healthier (and potentially more sustainable) food choices and improving their dietary patterns.   

The event sought to set the scene by presenting the current FIC Regulation and explaining the current revision and its challenges, setting alcohol labelling as a specific case study. As part of the Better Regulation for Better Health project, in which EPHA is taking part, the FIC Regulation is studied. Therefore, the research team, from the University of Edinburgh and Maynooth University shared input and expertise on EU Better Regulation and public health law. The goal was also to discuss and exchange on EPHA and its members’ approaches and activities on the topic, with a presentation from Eurocare. 

The workshop, targeting mainly EPHA members, gathered 33 participants, including EPHA members, speakers, key partners, and EPHA team members.  

Better Regulation for Better Health 

This first session provided insights on the Better Regulation agenda, setting out the policy process, with three pillars: evidence-based policymaking, participation, and simplification & burden reduction. From an academic perspective, it’s an example of an administrative or horizontal policy framework that has significant implications for health policymaking.  

This session also introduced the Better Regulation for Better Health project, seeking to explore the impact that the Better Regulation agenda has on the policy-making process, using health as a sectoral case study. The project has been designed and undertaken in collaboration with EPHA. The project has three strands looking at:  

  • four specific pieces or packages of legislation and tracing the policy process, with a focus on stages related to Better Regulation. 
  • the norms and discourse that underpin the Better Regulation agenda and how the concept is understood. 
  • the role of civil society in Better Regulation, with a capacity building element.  

Finally, the session presented elements of findings regarding case studies of the project, such as the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), which is seen as a missed opportunity for public health. Please note that the case studies findings are not publicly available yet. 

Legal Aspects of Better Regulation and the FIC

This session focused on the legal basis of Better Regulation. The Better Regulation agenda is not directly in the EU treaties, but it is supported by more details in policy documents, and other institutional publications. 

The session discussed whether EU law could be leveraged to ask that the inputs of the consultations should be used, or if the Better Regulation tools could be used legally to defend health. However, it is difficult to make a legal case to show that the EU did not actually regulate better on one regulation or another, following the Better Regulation guidelines. 

After discussing the case of the FIC Regulation, the session concluded that to advance the health agenda in this debate, a political strategy should be favoured over a legal one. 

What is the FIC regulation?

This session presented the state of play on the FIC regulation. As it is a regulation, it is binding in all the Member States, and will be directly part of their legislation. This regulation was quite contested, with 3 500 amendments. The regulation aims at ensuring that consumers make better choices if they are informed, by informing them on allergens, nutritional information, mandatory origin information and requirements for online purchases. This labelling has been mandatory since 2016. Currently, nutritional claims and health claims are not regulated in the FIC.  

In 2020, in the context of Farm to Fork and the Green Deal, it was decided to launch a revision of the regulation, to support greening the food systems. The aim was to introduce harmonized mandatory front-of-package nutritional labelling, extend the mandatory labelling of origin of certain products, introduce revised rules on date marking (use by and best before), as well as mandatory indications for alcoholic beverages (from Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan). However, the revision has been blocked, particularly because of four elements: 

  • Fragmentation  
  • Geographical indications 
  • Alcohol 
  • Nutri-score 

The session also introduced EPHA’s position on the topic and discussed the fact that alcohol over 1.2% has not been included in the regulation so far.  

FIC and advocacy – alcohol labelling

This session introduced the status of the current FIC revision process, including the consultation that took place in 2020-2021. The revision is currently stuck at the interservice consultation. The exercise of impact assessment was also discussed, particularly the extent to which health is taken into account in the results. In that regard, the Better Regulation agenda was discussed, to see how it could be improved for health. 

The session presented Eurocare’s advocacy and campaign, from the consultation, and provided recommendations on how NGOs could play their part and advocate through a campaign in such cases, including the use of toolkits, reaching out to MEPs, and coordinating efforts. 

As the session presented the case for the inclusion of alcohol labelling in the FIC, the Irish labelling legislation recently introduced was mentioned. 

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