New rules on provision of food information to consumers entered into force on 1 April 2015 pursuant to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's decree (834/2014). The decree is applied to all food intended for consumers.
Until now there has been very little regulation on the provision of information on unpacked food. EU Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers (1169/2011) regulates the provision of information on all food intended for consumers, but the regulation stipulates detailed requirements on information only for packed food. Thus, specific requirements concerning unpacked food and food served from professional kitchens have been left to the discretion of the Member States.
According to the new Finnish decree, unpacked food sold in retail outlets must be accompanied with information on allergens, name, ingredients and country of origin to the same extent as in packed food, as well as the necessary instructions for use and storage. Further, as of 13 December 2016, information must be provided on the amount of salt and fat in cheese, sausages and lunch meat, and the amount of salt in bread. In food establishments consumers must be informed about the food's allergens, name and the country of origin to the same extent as packed food.
Information on unpacked food has to be presented primarily in writing in a brochure or a bulletin board in the vicinity of the food. In restaurants the information on portions can be presented e.g. in the menu. The information can also be given orally if it is indicated clearly in the vicinity of the unpacked food that the information can be asked from the personnel.
The Commission of the European Union has introduced a legislative proposal that would allow the Member States more freedom in deciding whether or not to use EU approved genetically modified organisms (GMO) for food or animal feed in their food chain. The Commission's legislative proposal is based on the outcome of its review of the decision-making process for the authorization of GMOs as food and animal feed.
The purpose of the proposal is to maintain the current authorization system while at the same time giving the Member States more freedom on restricting or prohibiting EU-authorized GMOs as food or animal feed. However, the Member States' opt-out decisions must comply with EU-law, such as the principles of the Internal Market and EU's international obligations. Further, the Member States' opt-outs shall be based on legitimate reasons other than those already assessed at EU level.
The new proposal has been introduced to complement the Member States' rights in respect to GMOs for the Cultivation Directive (EU 2015/412) which entered into force in March 2015. As a result, the aim is for EU to have a consistent set of rules for GMO authorization for the entire area of cultivation, food and feed. The system would also allow taking into account the Member States' individual concerns more effectively.
The Swedish Market Court has ruled (MD 2015:7) that the wine advertising by a German company through directly addressed postal letters to Swedish consumers above the age of 25 is not a violation of the Alcohol Act. The letters were sent without the receivers' advance consent to the advertising.
The Court held that neither the wording of the letters nor the information about the wines offered had contributed to maintaining or increasing the consumption of alcohol or to a positive attitude towards the use of these products in a way that was incompatible with the protection of public health. Thus, the advertising could not be considered to have been in contravention of the requirement for particular moderation.
As earlier reported on in our previous Food Industry Review, the Swedish National Food Agency ("SNFA") has introduced new rules for the well-known "Nyckelhål" (keyhole) food label. Now, the SNFA has issued guidelines to help the companies and the controlling function to interpret the new rules. Since "Nyckelhål" food label is also used in Denmark, Norway and Iceland, the guidelines have been developed by the four countries together to secure a uniform content and interpretation. The purpose of the guidelines are to provide information about the control area, for example, current regulations, contact functions, responsibilities or the implementation of operational control.
EU has abolished dairy produce quotas from 1 April 2015 onward. Before the abolishment, each member state was assigned a national quota for deliveries to dairies and another national quota for direct sales at farm level. The quotas were then distributed among producers in each Member State and if the Member State exceeded its quota, the milk producers in the Member State were obligated to pay a surplus levy in proportion to their contribution to the exceeding of the annual quotas. The abolishment of milk quotas has the potential of increasing the trade in dairy products, both within the EU and to third countries.
The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira has introduced new DNA methods to detect food counterfeits. A certain lactic acid bacterial strain can be added to origin-protected cheeses without changing the texture or taste, and the origin of the cheese can later be determined by the DNA of the strain. In the future, DNA sequences derived from plants, known as synthetic DNA bar codes, may also be sprayed onto the food surface. The origin or production chain of the food can later be traced by isolating the DNA in laboratory tests. The increasing cross-border trade of foodstuffs has made food counterfeiting economically attractive, but counterfeit food always presents a food safety risk.