FoodDrinkEurope welcomes the publication of the European Commission study on the possibility of the extension of the scope of the EU Eco-label to food, feed and drink products as prescribed by the Regulation No 66/2010 (1).
As confirmed by the study, extending the scope of the EU Eco-label to food and drink products is a highly complex and challenging matter and it is doubtful whether it would result in any added value from an environmental perspective.
FoodDrinkEurope welcomes the main finding of the report which underlines that the environmental, ethical and social impacts of food production and consumption are difficult to measure and compare. Real environmental impacts depend very much on local circumstances. Instead of prescribing specific production technologies, which may result in negative environmental trade-offs, the way forward is an output-based assessment. This is in line with the efforts of the European Food Sustainable Consumption and Production Round Table, a multi-stakeholder process which involves the European Commission. The Round Table works towards developing scientifically reliable and comparable environmental assessment methodologies, based on the full support of the supply chain and a sound scientific knowledge base. As the study rightly notes, environmental assessment of food and drink products is a resource intensive process, which may be particularly burdensome for SMEs, as emphasised in the Guiding Principles of the Round Table (2).
The Commission study also mentions that the level of expertise needed to develop Ecolabel criteria is not present in the relevant national authorities and would require significant resources to develop. Moreover, additional significant financial resources would be needed to avoid consumer confusion due to the potential conflicts with the organic label and to increase the awareness of the EU Ecolabel scheme across Europe, which is currently very low (3).
These findings confirm the position highlighted by FoodDrinkEurope that the Ecolabel would mislead rather than inform consumers about the true environmental performance of food products along their life-cycle. Therefore, FoodDrinkEurope asks the Commission to listen to the views delivered by a large number of diverse stakeholders, food and drink umbrella organisations, farmers’ groups, the organic sector, environmental and consumer NGOs and administrations to maintain the exception of food and drink products from the EU Ecolabel scheme.
Communicating about the environmental performance of food and drink products needs to move beyond labelling and take a holistic approach to consider the needs of a modern society, for example, by taking advantage of digital technologies that allow for improved communication and more precise information. Hence, FoodDrinkEurope calls for a continuation of the work of the European Food Sustainable Consumption and Production Round Table, to develop scientifically reliable and comparable environmental assessment methodologies, based on the full support of the supply chain and a sound scientific knowledge base.
1) EU (2010) EU Regulation 66/2010 on the EU Ecolabel
3) On average only 4 in 10 EU citizens have seen the EU Ecolabel and only less than a fifth of them have ever bought anything bearing the label. Even in the countries with the highest awareness the level of recognition is no more than 51%. (Flash Eurobarometer 256)