- 21 June 2021
- Posted by: Betty Rombout
- Category: IFFI's column in Evmi
Food labelling regulation requires a certain “intention” and aims for “transparency” from the food industry. What does that mean in practice? On May 20th, IFFI organized a webinar to explain the regulation. IFFI Board member Renee Boerefijn facilitated. Annemieke Tops gave the keynote: “It is essential that we regularly update each in the industry.”
The company where Boerefijn works, has been supplying specialty oils & fats for one hundred and thirty years, mostly for the chocolate and bakery industry. Fourteen years ago IFFI was founded: a business network for innovative ingredients companies. “We were looking for a way to let companies within the ingredients industry support each other”, Boerefijn recalls. IFFI is business network, not a trade association, “a rare phenomenon in the industry.” Lobbying and influencing politics are not on the agenda. “It is truly a matter of supporting and assisting each other for the purpose of commercial success”.
Intention and transparency
Part of the challenge are the terms in the regulation. “Intention” for example, is not a simple term in practice. The intention of producers, including companies in the ingredients industry, is first and foremost to achieve commercial success, to secure the company’s future. “However, we will never do this at the expense of customers or consumers”, asserts Boerefijn.
Apart from a certain “intention”, the enforcement aims for transparency from the food industry. Boerefijn strongly supports this. “However, we can also confuse consumers, if we overwhelm them with details.” Boerefijn calls declaring ingredients by their chemically active substances or adding processing aids to the food label unnecessary and also “practically impossible”: the label would become larger than the packaging or unreadable due to the tiny font size. “By declaring an ingredient as a chemical substance, it will lose its meaning for the consumer. We may better aim for transparency that a consumer understands and supports the consumer to make a good decision”.
During the webinar, a number of examples where used to show how to work with the regulation. Participants were divided over a number of break-out rooms to review a number of cases. They had to decide how to label each case. “It was very informative and insightful”.
“Within the food industry we have a general idea of what companies do. It is much more important to know where companies want to go, we are all evolving.” Experts that may be single individuals within their own company, find a sounding board within the network and can use it for sparring in a confidential way. Boerefijn mentions the Fipronil-incident as an example. Such a crisis is now managed after the fact, but is best avoided. “That is in everyone’s interest”.
IFFI – Ingredients for Food Innovators, is a Dutch network that connects and inspires senior managers and professionals from the food ingredients industry.
(the Dutch version of this article was featured in EVMI)