Codex Delays Problematic Work on Front-of-Package Labeling

The 51st session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL) convened 55 government delegations and 26 non-government organizations from around the world in Ottawa, Canada, last week to address several proposed changes to international labeling standards. These standards are used as the basis for trade disputes and are adopted by some governments around the world.

During the meeting, the committee considered several labeling changes, such as development of guidelines for front-of-package labeling (FLOP) schemes and new claims for labeling foods that are “high in” certain nutrients, which would put undue emphasis on sugar, saturated fat and sodium with the potential to negatively portray dairy products. Of particular concern is the potential impact on international sales of cheese, butter, sweetened dairy beverages and other products on which some advocacy groups wish to slap warning labels. Chile, for instance, has placed a black stop-sign on cheese and butter sold in its market, and others are seeking to replicate it globally.

U.S. Delegation Urges Science-based Approach

Cary Frye, IDFA senior vice president of regulatory affairs, worked with the International Dairy Federation (IDF) and the U.S. government delegation of CCFL to advocate for revisions to the FOPL scheme. The delegation proposed guidelines that would be more science-based and align with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which do not endorse a nutrient-profiling system that misrepresents dairy foods.

 

 

While the Committee agreed that work on FOPL guidance is important, the members were not able to find consensus on many of the proposed general principles due to differing views. They decided that a working group will continue efforts on the document during the next 18 months and seek consensus before the next CCFL meeting.

The Committee also agreed not to pursue new work to define labeling criteria for “high in” nutritional descriptors for fats, sugars and sodium that potentially could have been used to set levels for front-of-package warning labels.

No Prohibition on ‘Cross Promotion’

In addition, Committee members decided not to endorse a general prohibition on “cross promotion,” a term not defined in Codex, in draft labeling provisions in the draft Codex standard for follow-up formula for older infants. IDFA has actively advocated against CCFL endorsement of this term as it could lead to regulatory inconsistencies and overreach in many countries and create trade barriers.

 

 

Additional labeling standards considered by the Committee included the development of new criteria for labeling non-retail containers, such as bulk shipments of food; proposals for future work on labeling food sold via e-commerce; and reviewing and updating the Codex General Standards for Labeling Prepackaged Foods (GSLPF) on allergen labeling.

The draft CCFL meeting report is available here. The final report will be posted soon on the Codex website.

Codex Alimentarius Commission

Assembled by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization, the Codex Alimentarius Commission is the only international forum bringing together scientists, technical experts and government regulators, as well as international consumer and industry organizations, to develop international food standards aimed at protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in food trade. The Codex Committee on Food Labeling considers, amends and endorses specific draft provisions for the Commission and meets every 18 months.

For more information, contact Frye at [email protected].

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