19/07/2011 Europe and You: Food labelling, road safety and broadband for all

Every week, gives the highlights of what Europe has been doing for you, for your rights, your health and your daily life. Today, we are reviewing three texts adopted by the European Parliament regarding food labelling, applying cross-border sanctions for road violations (that too often go unpunished) as well as internet access for all of Europe.

Consumers get better rights to information

In plenary session, MEPs adopted a much anticipated regulation on Wednesday July 6th regarding information for consumers on food which will be applied in 2014. It is a major step following more than three years of negotiations with the European Commission and the Member States. This text will guarantee European consumers defined rights to information on foodstuffs through clearer labelling that is more precise and easier to read.

As such, the country of origin must be stated for fresh meat such as pork, lamb, goat and poultry and not only for beef as has been the case up until now. Also, nutritional values will be noted on all products whether pre-packed or not (energy, lipid, fatty acid, carbohydrate, sugar, protein and salt content) and the presence of allergens must also be stated clearly in the list of ingredients. A minimum font size will ensure that the information is easily readable.
Guaranteeing consumers the right to information is vital in enabling them compare different products with all the facts so that they can make clear choices. However, the transparency of nutritional information is also hugely important in the fight against obesity.

In this respect, some are disappointed that the text does not go even further. John Dalli, Commissioner for Health, wanted the nutritional information to appear on the front rather than on the side of the products.
Similarly, it is hoped that in the future alcohol will also be included as well as dairy products, fish and processed meat.

Much to the displeasure of the socialists, the greens and the left, MEPs last week rejected a proposal aiming to introduce a visual system that would clearly show the fat, sugar and salt content of food through a ‘traffic light system’ where products are labelled red or green according to content.

Guaranteed internet access for all

Access to broadband even in remote rural regions is the aim of the Tzavela report adopted by the European Parliament on Wednesday. This report is one of the cornerstones of the European Union’s digital strategy. It aims to reduce the digital divide by ensuring that by 2020, all Europeans have access to connection speeds of more than 30 megabytes per second (Mbps) and that 50% of homes have internet connections of more than 100 Mbps.

Non-resident bad drivers are still bad drivers!

The European Parliament went on to adopt a report on the cross-border application of legislation on road safety. As things stand, road violations (from using a mobile while driving to drink driving) too often go unpunished particularly when the offender is resident in a Member State other than the one in which the offence is committed.It will mainly consist of an exchange of information between Member States;  notifying the offender about the offence will be optional and any judicial proceedings will take place within the State where the offence took place. The United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark will not apply the text in their systems. Although it is not very far reaching, the text is a step in the right direction for strengthening road safety in Europe. 


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