FAO’s path for the establishment of a global homologation of front labelling
22 diciembre 2017



Food Labelling. Faced with an increasing trend in front labelling of food in simplified format, Costa Rica and New Zealand identified during the 43rd Session of the Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL43) held in Ottawa, Canada in 2016, the lack of global consistency and guidance on simplified nutrition labelling.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) also stated that the proliferation of different systems of Simplified Nutrition Labeling in the Front of the Container (ENPFE) can create problems for export and trade. For this reason, some global consistency in the approach should be sought through the Food Labeling Committee (CCFL) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) is developing guidelines for countries that are considering ENPFE systems. In this regard, Costa Rica and New Zealand embarked on a study to observe the existing front labelling models and prepare a discussion document to be deliberated by the committee (CCFL).

Committee document

In the text of the project for the elaboration of a frontal nutrition labelling standard presented at the meeting of the Committee in Asuncion, Paraguay in October 2017, Costa Rica and New Zealand stated that there is a previous Codex standard (CXG 2-1985) that raises the possibility of using complementary nutritional information in the packaging of the products. However, this standard does not ensure the necessary information to allow the application of this type of labelling.

In this line of ideas, the main objective is to establish specific guidelines of the ENPFE. It is not yet established if the nutrition labelling document will be modified or not (CXG 2-1985), but it is assessed that the new guidance should include objectives, principles and definition of the ENPFE and aspects to be considered for its elaboration, with the purpose that countries of the international system that wish to incorporate this figure have accurate guidelines for the future. In this way, it would help to guarantee a certain kind of degree of global harmonization.

Discussion of the document in Paraguay

Among the issues that arised at the time of the document’s treatment in Paraguay, it was stressed that the ENPFE systems should have a scientific basis, provide consumers with accurate and transparent nutritional information, and that they should not substitute the declaration of nutrients. The delegation of Russia recommended that ENPFE should be used only for pre-packaged foods, while the delegation of France recommended including positive foods such as fiber, fruit and vegetables in the system.

Next steps

Regarding the project document on nutrition information in the front labeling of food, Costa Rica should work with New Zealand to reform the text presented. The document is expected to be approved at the 41st session of the Codex Alimentarius, to be held in Rome from July 2-7, 2018. Subsequently, a preliminary draft with the actual guidelines will be submitted for consideration by the Codex Committee for Food Labeling at its 45th session (CCFL45), to be held in 2019, and which will be adopted by the international organization after 2020.

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