The European Parliament elections – which take place every five years – will happen between 22-25 May next year. New MEPs will be voted in and the next European Commission (EC) president will be elected.
This change in Brussels will be the biggest challenge for the European snack industry in 2014, said Sebastian Emig, director-general of the ESA.
“The European Parliament elections will bring new players into the Brussels arena… There will be a change of around one-third or one-fourth of the entire MEPs present. This means there are new players, new partners to explain what we’re doing as an industry, to iron out any misperceptions,” Emig told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“We will continue to inform the political gatekeepers about our contribution of energy, salt and fat to the diet – which is absolutely minimal,” he said.
EU platform for action on diet, physical activity and health
The ESA, as part of FoodDrinkEurope, is engaged with the EC and parliament on health-related issues through the EU platform for action on diet, physical activity and health. This platform, made up of industry, consumer protection NGOs and the Commission, aims to coordinate action on health-related and diet problems across the EU.
Emig said that with change in Brussels set for 2014, one concern is that the new Commissioner for Health may decide to discontinue the platform.
“The European Commission could change the structure, which we are open to – the more the merrier. But there might also be the danger that they stop the platform completely, which we don’t hope for,” the director-general said.
He said the platform provides a valuable tool to discuss EU-wide health-related issues, how to communicate information to consumers and for industry to pledge commitments to tackling obesity.
“We sit around one table and work together to achieve the overarching goal of establishing a healthier Europe,” he said.
FIC regulation – the devil lies in the detail…
A more specific challenge for 2014 that European snack makers will face will be implementing the Food Information to Consumers (FIC) regulation in 2014, Emig said.
The new labeling regulation will come into play in December 2014. It will see, among other more detailed changes, nutrition labeling become mandatory, GDAs (guideline daily amounts) replaced with RIs (reference intakes) and there will be new rules for allergen labeling and requirements for ingredient origin labeling.
“The devil lies in the detail, and as regulation presses implementation in 28 markets, we are trying to harmonize things by working with FoodDrinkEurope. The regulation is very helpful, but for the implementation itself we have to have a common understanding which is applicable to the majority.”