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5.1 Labelling, Packaging and Marking Requirements

5.1.1 Textile Names (Directive 2008/121/EC)

a) Scope

Directive 2008/121/EC, which was published on 23 January 2009, creates a framework of rules governing the labelling of products as regards their textile fibre content, in order to ensure that the rules are harmonised EU-wide and consumers are kept informed. Textile products may only be marketed within the EU where they comply with the Directive.

All products containing at least 80% by weight of textile fibres, including raw, semi-worked, worked, semi-manufactured, manufactured, semi-made, or made-up products are covered in the Directive and therefore require labelling whenever they are put on the market for production or commercial purposes. Labelling indicating fibre composition is mandatory in all stages of the industrial processing and commercial distribution of a product.

Further, the Directive stipulates a checking regime on whether the composition of textile products is in conformity with the information supplied.

b) Fibres Covered, Allowances for Calculation and Exceptions

Annex I to the Directive lists the textile fibres which are covered by the Directive. In this way, fibres whose names and descriptions are contained in the Directive may be marketed as such, or incorporated in other textile products, freely within the EU. A list of exceptions to the mandatory labelling is provided in Annex III (e.g. travel goods of textile materials, toys, flags). Annex V sets out the allowances used to calculate the mass of fibres contained in a textile product. In addition, the Commission may adopt additions to Annexes I and V in accordance with technical progress.

5.1.2 Labelling, Presentation and Advertising of Foodstuffs (Directive 2000/13/EC)

a) Scope

Directive 2000/13/EC, which was published on 6 May 2000, is the framework EU law on the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs. The Directive applies not only to foodstuffs that are to be delivered as such to consumers but also foodstuffs intended for supply to restaurants, hospitals, canteens and other mass caterers.

b) Labels Must Not Be Misleading

The Directive provides that the labelling must not be such as could mislead the purchaser “to a material degree”. In particular, the labelling must not be misleading with regard to:

  • the characteristics of the foodstuff, including its nature, identity, properties, composition, quantity, durability, origin, method of manufacture or production;
  • the effects of properties of the foodstuff;
  • suggesting that the foodstuff possesses special characteristics when in fact all similar foodstuffs possess such characteristics; or
  • attributing to any foodstuff the property of preventing, treating or curing a human disease.

c) Mandatory Information

The Directive sets out a list of particulars which alone are compulsory on the labelling of foodstuffs and provides detailed requirements for each of these particular. The list includes, for example:

  • the name under which the product is sold;
  • the list of ingredients;
  • any special storage conditions; and
  • the details of the manufacturer.

d) Information on Allergy-causing Ingredients

The Directive was subsequently amended by Directive 2003/89/EC in order to ensure that consumers find it easier to be informed of what they are eating and to warn those who could be allergic, e.g. to nuts. The amending Directive requires the Member States to prohibit, as from 25 November 2005, the sale of products that do not comply with the necessary labelling requirements.

The amendment mainly comprises the following points:

  • the law reaffirms the general principle that every ingredient present in the finished product has to be indicated on the label;
  • accordingly, the amendment terminates the exemption on labelling components of compound ingredients accounting for less than 25% of the finished product and so establishes the principle that all the ingredients must be listed;
  • it nonetheless retains a limited number of exemptions for some compound ingredients used in negligible quantities; and
  • the law contains a list of ingredients occasioning most food allergies or intolerances, for which no exemptions in labelling are permitted.

The allergenic ingredients which have to be mentioned, without exception, whether used whole or as a part of other ingredients, are cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soybeans, milk and dairy products (including lactose), nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seed, and sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10mg/kg or 10 mg/litre.

Excluded from the scope of the law is the labelling of allergenic ingredients used in the course of production of foodstuffs, but which are absent or practically absent in the finished product. Such ingredients may be necessary as processing aids which do not leave any allergy-causing residues.

A transition period stipulated that products which are not labelled as required, but which were placed on the market or labelled prior to 25 November 2005 may continue to be sold while stocks last.

e) Future Revisions

The list of allergenic products set out in Directive 2000/13/EC is to be systematically revised and updated. The Annex has already been amended by Directive 2006/142/EC to include lupin and molluscs and products thereof.

As a result of a re-examination, new products could be added to the list, or products could be removed from the list if it can be proven that they cannot cause allergic reactions.

5.1.3 Labelling and Standard Product Information of the Consumption of Energy and Other Resources of Household Appliance (Directive 92/75/EC)

The purpose of this Directive, which was published on 13 October 1992, is to harmonise EU national measures on the labelling of information concerning the consumption of energy and related information for certain types of household appliances. In doing so, the Directive aims to allow consumers to choose more energy-efficient appliances.

The Directive provides that information relating to the consumption of electric energy, other forms of energy and other related information shall be brought to consumers’ attention by means of a fiche (to be provided in the product brochure) and a label (to be placed on the product itself).

The design and content of the label for each type of appliance are further defined in subsequent implementing Directives. The implementing Directive in each case also specifies the location where the label shall be fixed to the appliance which must, in all cases, be in a clearly visible position.

On 18 June 2010, new Directive 2010/30/EU on the indication by labelling and standard product information of the consumption of energy and other resources by energy-related products was published. It will replace Directive 92/75/EC on 21 July 2011. Directive 2010/30/EU will significantly extend the scope of products subject to energy labelling, and product information obligations. Notably, it will apply to any goods having an impact on energy consumption during use (i.e. energy-related products), rather than only to electrical household appliances. For instance, under the new provisions, windows and outer doors, which have significant potential to save energy, may become subject to labelling obligations. In addition, the hitherto existing labelling and information obligations towards consumers will have to be observed with respect to all end-users.

Furthermore, Directive 2010/30/EU allows the Commission to issue delegated acts, which will implement principles laid down in the Directive to specific types of products. These acts may take the form of directives, as well as regulations imposing obligations on producers and distributors directly without it being necessary for the national laws to transpose them.

Directive 2010/30/EU allows the addition of supplementary efficiency classes A+ to A+++ to the classifications provided in delegated acts.

Of particular interest to Hong Kong businesses are the implementing acts in relation to the following.

a) Energy Labelling of Household Electric Refrigerators, Freezers and Their Combinations (Directive 2003/66/EC)

Pursuant to this Directive, which was published on 9 July 2003, household electric refrigerators, freezers and their combinations fall within the energy labelling provisions.

Annex I to the Directive specifies the design and content of the label, as well as the colours that may be used. The label for refrigerators and freezers must be placed on the outside of the front or top of the appliance in such a way as to be clearly visible. The label itself must contain the following information:

  • the supplier’s name or trade mark;
  • the supplier’s model identifier;
  • the energy efficiency class;
  • a copy of the Eco-award mark, where applicable;
  • energy consumption expressed in kWh per year;
  • sum of net storage volume of all compartments that do not merit a star rating;
  • sum of net storage volume of all frozen food storage compartments which merit a star rating;
  • star rating of frozen food storage compartment; and
  • where applicable, noise information.

The Directive also specifies the energy efficiency class ratings of refrigerators, freezers and their combinations. Ratings go from A++ (being the most efficient) to G.

b) Energy Labelling of Household Refrigerating Appliances (Regulation 1060/2010)

The new Delegated Regulation, which was published on 30 November 2010, will start applying from 30 November 2011. It lays down the rules for energy labelling of insulated appliances intended for refrigerating or freezing as well as storage of foodstuffs for non-professional purposes. It will not apply to:

  • appliances powered by sources other than electricity;
  • battery-operated and custom-made refrigerating appliances;
  • refrigerating appliances that are custom-made;
  • appliances where the primary function is not the storage of foodstuffs, such as stand-alone ice-makers or chilled drinks dispensers.

The new Regulation specifies the responsibilities of dealers and suppliers in respect of the labelling and information to end-users. Annex II to the Regulation sets out the design and content of the label, while Annex III provides the required content of the product fiche. Moreover, Annex V contains additional information to be provided where the end-users cannot be expected to see the product displayed.

c) Energy Labelling of Household Electric Ovens (Directive 2002/40/EC)

The Directive, which was published on 15 May 2002, applies the energy labelling requirements to electric mains operated household electric ovens, including ovens being part of large appliances. It does not apply to:

  • ovens that can also use other energy sources;
  • ovens which do not fall within the scope of the harmonised standards; and
  • portable ovens having a mass of less than 18 kg.

Further, the energy consumption of steam functions other than the hot steam function is not covered by the Directive.

Annex I to the Directive contains details of the design and content of the label as well as specifying what colours may be used. The label must be placed on the door of the oven, in such a way as to be clearly visible and not obscured. For multi-cavity ovens, each cavity shall have its own label.

The information to be included on the label is the following:

  • supplier’s name or trade mark;
  • supplier’s model identifier;
  • the energy efficiency class of the cavity(ies) of the model;
  • a copy of the eco-award mark, where applicable;
  • energy consumption in kWh for the heating functions based on standard load;
  • usable volume of the cavity in litres;
  • the size of the appliance;
  • where applicable, noise measured during the function determining the energy efficiency.

The Directive also sets out how the energy efficiency classes are determined for each type of cavity.

d) Energy Labelling of Household Air-conditioners (Directive 2002/31/EC)

Pursuant to this Directive, which was published on 3 April 2002, the energy labelling requirements apply to electric mains operated household air-conditioners. The Directive does not apply to the following:

  • appliances that can also use other energy sources;
  • air-to-water and water-to-water appliance; and
  • units with output (cooling power) greater than 12 kW.

Annex I to the Directive sets out the design and content of the label as well as specifying what colours may be used. The label must be placed on the outside of the front or top of the appliance in such a way as to be clearly visible and not obscured. The following information must be included in the label:

  • supplier’s name or trade mark;
  • supplier’s model identifier;
  • the energy efficiency class of the model;
  • a copy of the eco-award mark, where applicable;
  • the indicative annual energy consumption calculated with the total input power, as defined, multiplied by an average of 500 hours per year in cooling mode at full load;
  • the cooling output defined as the cooling capacity in kW of the appliance in cooling mode at full load;
  • the energy efficiency ratio of the appliance in cooling mode at full load;
  • the type of appliance: cooling only, cooling/heating;
  • the cooling mode: air cooled, water cooled;
  • for appliances with heating capability, the heat output defined as the heating capacity in kW of the appliance in heating mode at full load;
  • for appliances with heating capability, the heating mode energy efficiency class; and
  • where applicable, noise measured during the function determining the energy efficiency.

The Directive also sets out how the energy efficiency class is determined.

e) Energy Labelling of Household Lamps (Directive 98/11/EC )

This Directive, which was published on 10 March 1998, applies the energy labelling requirements to household electric lamps supplied directly from the mains (filament and integral compact fluorescent lamps), and to household fluorescent lamps (including linear, and non-integral compact fluorescent lamps), even when marketed for non-household use. The following are excluded:

  • lamps with a luminous flux of more than 6,500 lumens;
  • lamps with an input power of less than 4 watts;
  • reflector lamps;
  • lamps marketed or commercialised primarily for use with other energy sources, such as batteries;
  • lamps not marketed or commercialised primarily for the production of light in the visible range (400 to 800 nm); and
  • lamps marketed or commercialised as part of a product, the primary purpose of which is not illuminative. However, where the lamp is offered for sale, hire or purchase or displayed separately, for example as a spare part, it is included.

The Directive sets out the design and content of the label, as well as the colours that may be used. The label must be placed or printed on, or attached to, the outside of the individual packaging of the lamp. Nothing else placed or printed on, or attached to, the individual packaging shall obscure it or reduce its visibility. There are specific requirements in the case of very small packaging.

The label must include the following information:

  • the energy efficiency class of the lamp;
  • the luminous flux of the lamp in lumens;
  • the input power (wattage) of the lamp; and
  • the average rated life of the lamp in hours.

The Directive also sets out how the energy efficiency class of a lamp will be determined.

f) Energy Labelling of Televisions (Regulation 1062/2010)

      The new Delegated Regulation, which was published on 30 November 2010, will start applying from 30 November 2011. It governs energy labelling and provision of supplementary product information for televisions. The Regulation will apply to:

  • television sets;
  • television monitors, designed to display a video signal and optionally controlling and reproducing audio signals from an external source device, but unable to receive and process broadcast signals.

The Regulation specifies the responsibilities of dealers and suppliers in relation to the information that has to be provided to end-users and labelling of the products. The content of the information has to comply with the rules setout in Annex III, while the content and design of the label can be found in Annex V to the Regulation.

In particular, information on power consumption and annual energy consumption in the on-mode has to be provided on the label, while the product fiche has to indicate the energy consumption in stand-by and off-mode.

g) Energy Labelling of Household Dishwashers (Directive 97/17/EC)

The Directive, which was published on 7 May 1997, applies the energy labelling requirements to electric mains-operated household dishwashers. Appliances that can also use other energy sources are excluded.

Annex I to the Directive sets out the design and content of the label, as well as the colours that may be used. The label must be placed on the outside of the front or top of the appliance in such a way as to be clearly visible and not obscured. The label must contain the following information:

  • supplier’s name or trade mark;
  • supplier’s model identifier;
  • the energy efficiency class of the model;
  • a copy of the eco-award mark, where applicable;
  • energy consumption in kWh per cycle using standard cycle;
  • cleaning performance class;
  • drying performance class;
  • capacity of appliance in standard place settings;
  • water consumption, in litres, per complete cycle using standard cycle; and
  • where applicable, noise during standard cycle.

The Directive also sets out how the energy efficiency class of a dishwasher will be determined.

Directive 97/17/EC will be replaced by new Delegated Regulation 1059/2010 on energy labelling of household dishwashers, applicable from 20 December 2011. New Regulation 1059/2010 modifies the scope of products which will be subject to energy labelling obligations, in that it will apply also to electric mains-operated dishwashers that can also be powered by batteries, including those sold for non-household use as well as built in dishwashers.

In addition, the new Delegated Regulation provides for a transitory provision allowing consideration of products labelled in accordance with the new Regulation to be compatible with the replaced Directive. The new design of the label that has to be attached to appliances is provided in Annex I to the Regulation. The content of the product fiche has also been updated.

h) Energy Labelling of Household Combined Washer-driers (Directive 96/60/EC)

The Directive, which was published on 18 October 1996, applies the energy labelling requirements to electric mains operated household combined washer-driers. Appliances that can also use other energy sources are excluded.

Annex I to the Directive sets out the design and content of the label, as well as the colours that may be used. The label must be placed on the outside of the front or top of the appliance, in such a way as to be clearly visible and not obscured. The label must contain the following information:

  • supplier’s name or trade mark;
  • supplier’s model identifier;
  • the energy efficiency class of the model;
  • a copy of the eco-award mark, where applicable;
  • energy consumption in kWh per complete operating (washing, spinning and drying) cycle using standard 60°C cotton cycle, and “dry cotton” drying cycle;
  • washing performance class;
  • maximum spin speed attained for the 60°C cotton cycle;
  • capacity (in kg) of appliance for standard 60°C cotton cycle (without drying);
  • capacity (in kg) of appliance for “dry cotton” (drying) cycle;
  • water consumption, in litres, per complete operating (washing, spinning and drying) cycle using standard 60°C cotton washing cycle and “dry cotton” drying cycle; and
  • where applicable, noise during washing, spinning and drying cycles using standard 60°C cotton washing cycle and “dry cotton” drying cycle.

The Directive also sets out how the energy efficiency class of combined washer-driers will be determined.

i) Energy Labelling of Household Electric Tumble Driers (Directive 95/13/EC)

The Directive, which was published on 21 June 1995, applies the energy labelling requirements to electric mains operated household tumble driers. Appliances that can also use other energy sources are excluded, as are combined washer-driers (which fall within Directive 96/60/EC, examined at paragraph vi above).

Annex I to the Directive sets out the design and format of the label, as well as the colours that may be used. The label for tumble driers must be placed on the outside of the front or top of the appliance, in such a way as to be clearly visible, and not obscured. The label must contain the following information:

  • supplier’s name or trade mark;
  • supplier’s model identifier;
  • the energy efficiency class of the model;
  • a copy of the eco-award mark, where applicable;
  • energy consumption in kWh per cycle, for “dry cotton cycle”;
  • rated capacity of cotton, in kg;
  • the type of appliance, air vented or condensing; and
  • where applicable, noise measured.

The Directive also sets out how the energy efficiency requirements in relation to electric tumble driers will be determined.

j) Energy Labelling of Household Washing Machines (Directive 95/12/EC)

This Directive, which was published on 21 June 1995, applies the energy labelling requirements to electric mains operated household washing machines, excluding:

  • machines with no spin capability;
  • machines with separate washing and spin drying vessel (such as twin tubs); and
  • combined washer-driers (which fall within the scope of Directive 96/60/EC, examined at paragraph vi above).

Appliances that can also use other energy sources are excluded.

Annex I to the Directive sets out the design and content of the label, as well as the colours that may be used. The label must be placed on the outside of the front or top of the appliance, in such a way as to be clearly visible, and not obscured. The following information must be included on the label:

  • supplier’s name or trade mark;
  • supplier’s model identifier;
  • the energy efficiency class of the model;
  • a copy of the eco-award mark, where applicable;
  • energy consumption in kWh per cycle using standard 60°C cotton cycle;
  • washing performance class;
  • drying efficiency class;
  • maximum spin speed attained for standard 60°C cotton cycle;
  • capacity of appliance for standard 60°C cotton cycle (without drying);
  • water consumption per cycle of washing using standard 60°C cotton cycle; and
  • where applicable, noise during washing and spinning cycles using standard 60°C cycle.

The Directive also sets out how the energy efficiency class for washing machines will be determined.

Directive 95/12/EC will be replaced by new Delegated Regulation 1061/2010 on energy labelling of household washing machines on 20 December 2011. Although the new Regulation differently defines the scope of products which will be subject to the energy labelling obligations, it does not largely depart from the principles set forth in Directive 95/12/EC.

The Delegated Regulation introduces a new design for the label which has to be attached to the products concerned in accordance with Annex I. Although the new Regulation will be applicable from 20 December 2011, products labelled in conformity with its provisions will be deemed to comply with Directive 95/12/EC, currently in force. The content of the product fiche has also been updated.

5.1.4 Marking Requirement under the “WEEE Directive” (Directive 2002/96/EC)

The WEEE Directive has been covered elsewhere in this Business Guide. It is only emphasised here that Articles 10 and 11 of the Directive lay out certain marking requirements which Hong Kong producers have to comply with before their electronic and electrical equipment may be placed on the market in the Community.

The WEEE Directive requires producers to appropriately mark their equipment with the symbol of a crossed out wheeled bin (as shown in Annex IV to the WEEE Directive). In exceptional cases, where this is necessary because of the size or the function of the product, the symbol have to be printed on the packaging, on the instructions for use and on the warranty of the equipment. In addition, marking will be necessary to uniquely identify the producer, and to indicate that the equipment was put on the market after 13 August 2005.

CENELEC (the EU’s electro-technical standards body) ratified European Standard EN 50419 on 12 December 2004, which was intended to become applicable on 13 August 2005. The standard lays down provisions for:

  • a unique identification of the producer, which can take the form of a brand name, trademark, company registration number or other suitable means to identify the producer;
  • and information that the product has been put on the market after 13 August 2005, which can take the form either of the date of manufacture/it being put on the market, or an additional mark (a solid black bar) used in conjunction with the crossed-out wheeled bin.

5.1.5 On Nominal Quantities for Pre-packed Products (Directive 2007/45/EC)

Directive 2007/45/EC on nominal quantities for pre-packed products was published in the Official Journal on 21 September 2007.

a) Background

Pack sizes have hitherto been overseen by two EU Directives (one of which is amended and one of which is repealed by the new Directive) and 27 different sets of national rules. The current complex system will continue until the Member States apply the necessary provisions of the new Directive from 11 April 2009.

b) Scope

The measures have been consolidated and simplified in order to harmonise requirements between Member States, and aid the free movement of goods around the EU’s internal market. Currently, consumer products such as frozen food, toothpaste, cleaning products and paints, amongst others, are sold in quantities that are determined by national or EU law. Under the new Directive companies will be able to adjust packaging sizes in line with consumer preference, innovations in pre-packing, retailing and marketing measures rather than legislation. Thus, for the majority of product groups it will be possible to place pre-packed goods on the market in the EU in any nominal quantity.

However, for certain specified sectors packaging sizes will remain, for example, for policy reasons packaging sizes for wine or spirits will continue to be mandatory and pack sizes for duty-free products for consumption outside the EU will remain in place. Certain additional derogations will also apply for goods which are considered to be “most-sold”. For these “most-sold” goods (milk, butter, dried pasta and coffee), it is thought that it will be of benefit to consumers to maintain mandatory range sizes as it will enable a quick price comparison for basic products. Thus, Member States have the option continue to apply mandatory pack sizes for these goods until 11 October 2012. Mandatory nominal quantities for white sugar may also remain in place until 11 October 2013.

Clear labelling by packers is requested, to ensure consumers can compare products with ease. Thus, traders should ensure that weight and volume indications on consumer product labelling are easily legible and visible on pre-packaged products.

5.1.6 Foods Intended for Use in Energy-restricted Diets for Weight Reduction (Directive 2007/29/EC)

On 31 May 2007, the Official Journal published Commission Directive 2007/29/EC amending Directive 96/8/EC on certain aspects of the labelling, advertising and presentation of foods intended for use in energy-restricted diets for weight reduction.

These new labelling and advertising requirements are of interest to Hong Kong manufacturers of diet foods, or foods for particular nutritional uses, that are exported to the EU.

a) Scope

The foods in question are specially formulated foods which, when used as instructed by the manufacturer, replace either in whole or in part the total daily diet. For the purpose of Directive 96/8/EC and the new Directive, the foods are thus divided into two categories: products presented to replace the whole of the daily diet (“total diet replacement for weight control”); and products presented to replace only one or more meals of the daily diet (“meal replacement for weight control”).

b) Background

Previously, Directive 96/8/EC provided that manufacturers were not permitted to make any reference, on labels or related advertising for diet foods, to the rate or amount of weight loss which total-diet replacements and meal replacements contributed to a calorie-counting diet. In addition, they were not permitted to market these diet foods by referring to their hunger-reducing effect.

c) Claims

However, certain health claims with regard to food which describe or refer to hunger-suppressing or to increased satiety are now allowed. Accordingly, the new Directive amends Directive 96/8/EC to permit certain claims with regard to hunger reduction and increased satiety under specific conditions. It should be noted that labelling, advertising and presentation of the products concerned shall still not make any reference to the rate or amount of weight loss which may result from their use.

Thus, claims regarding hunger suppression are allowed where, in accordance with Regulation 1924/2006, they are based on generally accepted scientific evidence and are understood by the average consumer. Under Regulation 1924/2006, Member States need to notify the Commission of health claims in relation to slimming or weight-control foods by the end of 2008, together with references to any scientific justification. The Commission will then adopt a list of permitted claims, and the conditions necessary for their use, by the end of 2009 at the latest. Changes and additions will be made to this Commission list, in accordance with a specified procedure.

d) Transitional Measures

Prior to the list being adopted by the Commission, transitional measures apply:

  • health claims concerning a reduction in the sense of hunger or an increase in the sense of satiety which are already subject to evaluation and authorisation in a Member State, will be permitted until the Commission adopts a decision on whether or not such claims should be authorised;
  • health claims concerning a reduction in the sense of hunger or an increase in the sense of satiety which are not subject to evaluation and authorisation in a Member State, may continue to be used provided the claims are notified to the Commission before 19 January 2008;
  • where the Commission adopts a decision refusing to authorise certain health claims, those claims may be used for a further six months from the date of the Commission decision.

e) Labelling

Hong Kong businesses should note that additional labelling requirements for foods for use in energy-restricted diets still apply under Directive 96/8/EC. Among other things, total diet replacements and meal replacements for weight-control should be labelled with the following:

  • the available energy value expressed in kJ and kcal, and the content of proteins, carbohydrates and fat, expressed in numerical form, per specified quantity of the product ready for use as proposed for consumption;
  • instructions for appropriate preparation where necessary, and a statement as to the importance of following those instructions;
  • if a product, when used as instructed by the manufacturer, provides a daily intake of polyols in excess of 20g per day, there shall be a statement to the effect that the food may have a laxative effect;
  • a statement on the importance of maintaining an adequate daily fluid intake;
  • for products presented as a replacement for the whole of the daily diet:

– a statement that the product provides adequate amounts of all essential nutrients for the day;

– a statement that the product should not be used for more than three weeks without medical advice;

  • for products presented as a replacement for one or more meals of the daily diet: a statement to the effect that the products are useful for the intended use only as part of an energy-restricted diet and that other foodstuffs should be a necessary part of such diet.

Member States were to implement the provisions of the new Directive by 30 November 2007.

5.1.7 Nutrition and Health Claims on Foods (Regulation 1924/2006)

On 30 December 2006, the Official Journal of the European Communities published EC Regulation 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning nutrition and health claims made on foods. This legislation, which applies to any food or drink product produced for human consumption to be sold on an EU Member State’s market, has been adopted after more than three years of debate. The aim of the Regulation is to guarantee the accuracy and quality of nutritional information provided to consumers on food packaging. In order to achieve this aim it sets out requirements for both labelling and advertising that will impact on those Hong Kong traders who market and import food products in the EU.

a) Application and Scope

The Regulation, which was initially proposed by the Commission in July 2003, came into force on 19 January 2007 and has applied 1 July 2007.

Certain general provisions will apply from 1 July 2007. For example, nutrition claims such as “high in fibre” and health claims such as “calcium makes your teeth stronger”, will only be permitted where they can be substantiated by generally accepted scientific data. Information on labelling, marketing or advertising about the nutritional or health benefits of foods which is not clear, accurate or substantiated will be banned. In addition, claims referring to rates or expected amount of weight loss, as well as claims referring to recommendations of individual doctors will be prohibited. Health and nutrition claims on alcoholic beverages above 1.2 % will also not be allowed, except those referring to a reduction in alcohol or calories. Further general requirements regarding nutrition and health claims laid down in the Regulation include the following:

  • such claims must not encourage or condone excess consumption of a food;
  • such claims must not suggest that a balanced and varied diet cannot provide appropriate quantities of nutrients in general (with certain exceptions); or
  • such claims must not refer to changes in bodily functions which could give rise to, or exploit a fear in the consumer.

b) Nutrient Profiles

In addition to these general provisions, the Commission has until 19 January 2009 in which to establish specific nutrient profiles and the conditions, including exemptions, which shall be respected for the use of nutrition and health claims on foods and categories of foods.

The nutrient profiles will be based on the scientific opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Within two years of the Regulation entering into force, the Commission will consult the relevant stakeholders, and present proposals for nutrient profiles to Member State experts in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. If the Standing Committee backs these proposed nutrient profiles, they will be adopted by the Commission in accordance with established procedure and will enter into force following publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

Once agreed on, nutritional claims will only be permitted if they are in conformity with the conditions set out in the Regulation. The Annex to the Regulation already lists certain positive conditions applying to the use of nutritional claims. For example, in accordance with the Annex to the Regulation, the term “low in sugar” may only be made where the product contains no more than 5g of sugar per 100g for solids or 2.5g of sugar per 100ml for liquids. The Annex will be added to by amendments.

c) Health Claims

For many well-established “function” health claims (such as “calcium may be good for your bones”), the Commission is to create a list based on claims submitted by Member States. These health claims will then be allowed to be carried on any label so long as the producer can verify the link between the claim and the product, and the food complies with the nutrient profile.

Certain health claims will be considered on a case-by-case basis, e.g., for claims regarding the reduction of the risk of suffering from a certain disease. In these cases, producers will be required to submit a scientific dossier to EFSA for assessment.

5.1.8 Addition of Vitamins and Minerals and of Certain Other Substances to Foods (Regulation 1925/2006)

On 30 December 2006, Regulation 1925/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the addition of vitamins and minerals and of certain other substances to foods was published in the Official Journal.

a) Background

The Regulation harmonises the provisions laid down in Member States which relate to the addition of vitamins and minerals and of certain other substances to foods. The stated aim of the Regulation is to ensure that foodstuffs on sale are safe and properly and clearly labelled so that consumers can make informed choices. The harmonisation of national rules was also deemed to be necessary in order to facilitate the free movement of these products within the EU.

b) Scope

The text of the Regulation lists the vitamins and minerals that may be added to foods, as well as the forms and conditions in which they may be added. The Annexes to the Regulation provide lists of vitamins and minerals which may be added. More specifically:

  • Annex I to the Regulation provides a list of vitamins and minerals which may be added to foods;
  • Annex II is a list of the sources of vitamins and minerals which may be added to foods; and
  • Annex III is a list of substances whose use in foods is prohibited, restricted or under Community scrutiny.

The lists in the Annexes to the Regulation will provide a clear set of rules for food importers to follow. The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) will be responsible for evaluating the vitamin and mineral substances which are considered for inclusion in the Annex lists. In the course of its evaluation, EFSA will consider the safety and bio-availability of the individual substance concerned.

It should be noted that some Member States also have their own regulations regarding the mandatory addition of some vitamins and minerals to ordinary foods. The Regulation sets up a notification procedure for Member States, under which they shall report these rules to the Commission. By making this information available at a central point, the Commission aims to clarify the situation in relation to the requirements for adding vitamins and minerals to food for those exploiting the internal market in this field.

The substances in the Annex lists will be made available via a Community Register, established by the Commission, which will be maintained, updated and open for public consultation.

c) Labelling

Food producers who export from Hong Kong or the Chinese mainland to the EU should note that the Regulation sets out clear provisions on labelling, presentation and advertising. In particular, these must not deceive or mislead the consumer with regard to the nutritional merit of a food. In addition, nutrition labelling of products to which vitamins and minerals have been added and which are covered by the Regulation is compulsory.

In addition to vitamins and minerals, the Regulation also leaves the possibility of scrutinising and restricting, where necessary, the use of other substances added to foods or used in the manufacture of foods under conditions that would be ingested as part of a balanced diet, or which would otherwise represent a potential risk to consumers.

d) Derogations

Member States will be permitted to derogate from Annexes I and II until 19 January 2014, where the substance in question was used for addition to foods marketed in the Community prior to this date and where EFSA has not given a negative opinion regarding the use of the substance or its use in a specific form. After 19 January 2014 only vitamins and/or minerals listed in Annex I and in the forms set out in Annex II will be permitted to be added to foods.

The Regulation does not apply to food supplements covered by other EU legislation and also does not affect specific provisions on foods for particular nutritional uses, novel foods and food ingredients, food additives and flavourings and authorised wine-making processes.

The Regulation has applied throughout the EU from 1 July 2007.

Content provided by Hong Kong Trade Development Council
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