FoodDrinkEurope, consumer groups and farming bodies reject Ecolabel for food and drink

FoodDrinkEurope, consumer groups and farming bodies reject Ecolabel for food and drink

A European Commission plan to apply an 'Ecolabel' to food and drink sold in the European Union is facing opposition from leading consumer, environment and industry groups.

A feasibility study designed to test the waters for a blanket Ecolabel on food and drink sold across the EU drew resistance from around half of the stakeholders questioned. Europe's main consumer body, the BEUC, the European Environmental Bureau, industry body FoodDrinkEurope and farmers' unions have lined up in opposition to the Ecolabel.

Such a strong alliance against the policy could prove difficult for the European Commission to overcome. In July 2008, the Ecolabel was devised for potential use within a range of consumer products sectors, from washing detergents to soft drinks, within the EU's Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan.

Earlier this year, the Commission began a feasibility study to gauge consumer and industry opinion on the move. The study, published late last month, found that, although several retailers and food processors are in favour of a front-of-pack Ecolabel on food, many umbrella trade bodies and civil society bodies are against it.

"Their reasons varied but mainly concerned the expected consumer confusion of an EU Ecolabel with organic labels and resulting adverse effects on the credibility of the organic label and its market share," said the Commission. "We found that there was no scenario for which there was strong support," it added.  

It said that implementing the label would be complex and potentially costly, with each product category posing unique challenges in terms of monitoring environmental impact and related factors, such as worker and animal welfare. Consumers would also need to be educated on the meaning of the Ecolabel.

However, the Commission did identify a gap that the Ecolabel could fill, particularly for processed food and drink. "Even though environmental impacts may vary between product categories and lifecycle stages, most labels currently only concentrate on the environmental impacts of primary production and not, or only to a limited extent, the processing lifecycle stage," it said. Sectors that could most easily trial the Ecolabel are dairy, bread, soft drinks and processed fish, it added.

The Commission will next seek the opinion of the European Ecolabelling Board. A decision on whether to put forward any food or drink sectors for the Ecolabel, and if so, which ones, is expected by spring 2012.

For the EU feasibility study, click here.

For BEUC and Environment Bureau opinion, click here.

For FoodDrinkEurope (trade body) opinion, click here.