European salt trade body EUSalt admits the “battle is lost” to prevent mandatory EU-wide salt labelling on food products after Guideline Dietary Allowance (GDA) measures were approved as expected in a European Parliament vote this afternoon.
The group’s managing director Wouter Lox told FoodNavigator its opposition to the proposal was based on avoiding consumer confusion over salt and sodium-containing products – with sodium-containing products to be forced to label themselves as containing salt where none may have been added.
“The ballet has been lost but we must continue to lobby for change,” Lox said, noting its proposal for dual sodium-salt labelling was tabled at a European Commission committee meeting but rejected by the European Council as the group failed to enlist the support of consumer groups and regulators.
In a statement his association said: “This regulation could indeed have the opposite effect than the one expected, generating even more confusion in the consumer’s mind. In fact, substituting the mention of sodium (as it actually is) by the salt content will lead to absurd labelling. Dairy products such as milk and yoghurt will now have to indicate that they contain salt (when they might actually contain sodium, but no sodium chloride, i.e. salt).”
Lox said the labelling measure erroneously focused consumer attention on particular nutrients and their replacement, something he said had failed in countries like Scotland where salt reduction had not lowered despite a similar initiative.
“We thought consumer groups would see the sense in this but it has been in vain – so far.”
With the measure passed, food products in all 27 EU member states will be obliged to label their salt content via GDA panels in three years, with nutrition panels set to change in five.
EUSalt added: “Moreover, sodium is naturally present in some foods and ingredients which do not contain salt (such as fruits or vegetables) but that would still be compelled to label a salt content, leading the consumer to think that salt is added to the product, when it is never the case.”
The mention of both elements – sodium and salt – is essential and will contribute to familiarize the consumers with the accurate composition of foods. Labelling could then become a massive argument in favour of consumers’ education.”