With this newsflash, we remind you about the most important changes in food law during the last six months. 13 October 2014 brought an end to the transitional period set in Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011   of   the   European   Parliament   and   of   the  Council  of 25 October 2011 (Regulation) to implement new food labelling requirements; in turn, the milk quota regime of the European Union will end on 1 April 2015. Since these changes have affected Latvian regulatory enactments, we will now look at the most significant changes in food labelling and the milk quota system.

Regulatory requirements as to food labelling

From 13 December 2014, labelling and packaging must meet the requirements of the new Regulation. The following new food labelling requirements have been set, among others:

  1. stricter legibility criteria for food labelling (minimum font size for mandatory information, significant contrast between print and background);
  2. highlighting allergens both in prepacked and non-prepacked food (including catering institutions);
  3. obligation to indicate nanomaterials in the composition of food;
  4. mandatory indication of the country or place of origin for fresh pork, lamb, beef and poultry;
  5. obligation to indicate specific information about refined oils and fats of vegetable origin;
  6. indication of ‘formed meat’ and ‘formed fish’ if a misconception may occur that the food was made of a whole piece of meat or fish;
  7. mandatory indications about added water in meat and fishery products if added water exceeds 5% of the finished product;
  8. stricter requirements for labelling frozen products;
  9. identical labelling requirements for distance selling;
  10. obligation to indicate the replaced ingredient in “imitation” products (this refers to products such as “sour cream products”).

With regard to the last point, note that under Latvian regulatory norms, starting from 13 December 2014 labelling cannot use the names of milk products if the milk ingredient in the product is fully or partially replaced by a different ingredient. This refers, for example, to products that were earlier labelled “sour cream product”.

The Regulation applies to food businesses throughout the entire food chain if their operations are related to informing consumers about food products. It applies to all food products intended for end-users, including food products supplied by catering institutions and meant for delivery to catering institutions.

Businesses can sell food that is not labelled in compliance with the Regulation if the food was labelled before 13 December 2014. This exception refers only to food stocks and not stocks of food labels and packaging. In turn, with regard to labelling of nutritional value the Regulation applies from 13 December 2016. If a food business wishes to provide labelling of nutritional value from 13 December 2014, the labelling must meet the requirements of the Regulation.

More detailed information about the new food labelling requirements is available here.

Increased food handling supervision

On 26 November 2014, significant amendments were introduced to the Law on Supervision of Handling of Food that partially reflect application of the Regulation. The most important amendments provide:

  1. When consumers have been misled about product origin, ingredients and health instructions, the Food and Veterinary Service (FVS) can suspend or limit handling of food, as well as inform the public about misleading cases. The most popular consumer misleading cases are forging documents on food origin by indicating an incorrect country of origin and using “cream” and “cheese” for products that contain vegetable fats.
  2. The FVS can make control purchases. If inspection reveals a violation, then the expenses of purchase are covered by the food company. This norm is planned to be actively used in cases when food is sold through distance selling.
  3. Directly applicable regulatory enactments of the European Union require companies to inform the European Commission about various food handling issues, for example, on a request from the European Commission food additive producers provide information about the actual use of food additives. Now, information provided to European Union institutions by food companies must also be provided to the FVS.

Labelling of fishery and aquaculture products must indicate the scientific name of the species in Latvian

On 6 March 2015, new regulations came into force replacing previous regulations with regard to trade names of species to be used in labelling of fishery and aquaculture products. When distributing fishery and aquaculture products for retail, labelling must now indicate not only the trade name of the fish species but also its scientific name in Latvian. The new regulations include a list of names for fish, crustaceans and invertebrates in Latvian, Latin and English to be used for labelling fish and aquaculture products to be consumed in the retail sector. Fish included in a different food product as an ingredient can be labelled simply as “fish” if the product name and package does not refer to a particular species.

Milk buyers can deduct prepayment for exceeded milk quotas

In preparing for the fact that a large number of milk producers in Latvia have exceeded their milk quotas, amendments to the milk quota administration regulations were adopted and came into force on 31 December 2014. The amendments mainly set new rights and obligations for milk buyers (legal entities approved by the Agricultural Data Centre for purchasing milk from milk producers) in relation to charging penalties from milk producers for exceeded milk quotas.

If producers have exceeded their milk quota, then buyers can deduct prepayment from producers for penalties for exceeded quotas up to 50% of the contractual price payable to the milk producer for milk during the respective period. The plan is to avoid a situation where because of exceeding the total national milk quota the producer would have to pay the whole calculated penalty at once. Milk buyers must inform their producer about meeting milk quotas, inform the producer and data centre about the amount of prepayment deducted and repay the deducted prepayment to the milk producer if the total national milk quota is not exceeded after recalculation.

If the producer has exceeded its available milk quota during the year and pays the prepayment to the buyer, then the producer may transfer to another buyer only after settling liabilities with the present buyer with regard to payment of penalties for exceeded milk quotas.

The regulations have been supplemented with a norm clarifying when a sample of raw cow’s milk is considered not to be suitable. Likewise, in the milk balance sheet for the previous month the buyer must now also report planned milk procurement value (without value added tax).

Expected changes in the area of food handling

The above amendments in the Law on Supervision of Handling of Food require the Cabinet of Ministers to adopt several new Cabinet Regulations or to supplement existing ones. The most important expected amendments will provide:

  1. maximum allowed amount of trans-fat in food; and
  2. requirements on providing information about non-prepacked food.

In this regard, note that on 27 November 2014, the state secretary meeting announced draft regulations “Requirements to provide information about non-prepacked food” that after revision will be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers for approval. The regulations will specify the requirements set in the Regulation for provision of information about non-prepacked food. The regulations will affect companies in the food chain that offer non-prepacked food to end-users or catering companies or companies that pack food at the point of sale at consumers’ request or for direct sales. These regulations are expected to decrease administrative costs for the companies involved because certain information about non-prepacked food can be provided orally.