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Thanks to the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, significant changes will be made to the domestic food legislation, including the provision of information to consumers, in accordance with the Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers. The adoption of the above Regulation will ensure a high level of protection of the health and interests of consumers by providing all necessary information for consumers to make informed food choices and introduce liability of market operators, responsible for food information, for misleading consumers.

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The need to establish new rules for providing consumers with information about the food they buy is also linked to the abolition of state standards. In the past, the state used standards to regulate all food production processes, which often created inconveniences and restrictions for producers (for example, modification of packaging or release of a new product required approval of a new state standard, although this was not related to food safety). Under such a system, the state was responsible for food products. Today, standards, in accordance with generally accepted world practice, have become voluntary, and responsibility for food has passed to food market operators. According to European standards, market operators responsible for providing food information must now be aware of the requirements and format of the information they must provide to the consumer and the liability for not providing such information or misleading the consumer in any other way.

The main requirements of European legislation for providing consumers with information about food products related to:

  • clarity of the name of the food product;
  • ‘readability’ of the font;
  • mandatory indication of allergens or substances that may cause food intolerance present in food;
  • requirements for indicating the minimum shelf life or date of “use by”;
  • indication of the country or place of origin of the product, if necessary;
  • indication of conditions of storage and use, in the provided cases;
  • rules for providing information on food products sold remotely, including by means of remote communication;
  • requirements for the provision of information on nutritional value and exceptions to them;
  • regulation of the responsibilities of market operators responsible for providing food information.

At this stage, Ukrainian food companies see the main problem in adopting these requirements in spending significant funds on the production of new labels. However, the law does not require immediate changes but instead provides for a transitional period that will allow manufacturers to bring the labeling of their products in line with the law.

Other business concerns are not significant. Most of them concern changes in the approach to the presentation of food information: the identification of allergens, increasing the font of mandatory information about the food on the label, indicating the country or place of origin of the food, providing information on whether the food was frozen or thawing, and the indication of all ingredients used in the production of food, providing information on nutritional value in accordance with statutory standardized requirements, which will change the principle of labeling and reformatting.

These requirements are mostly technical in nature and will not be a problem for manufacturers of a safe, high-quality product. Instead, problems may arise for those manufacturers who intentionally do not want to indicate the full list of ingredients they use manufacturing their products.

Thus, the draft law on providing information to consumers about food will protect citizens from buying low-quality products. That is, the Ukrainian consumer must be protected from false, unclear, and insufficient information for a conscious and reasonable choice, as well as the European one. Therefore, first of all, it protects the interests of consumers.

It should be noted that bringing Ukrainian legislation in line with EU legislation will be beneficial for all actors in the food market. Market operators will have uniform rules for providing food information to consumers, which in turn will provide legal certainty and reduce the administrative burden on market operators responsible for providing this information.

 

Authors:

Liubov Akulenko

Zhanna Pastovenska