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New rules for packaging in the EU may result in larger packages

The United States isn't the only country in the world that is getting slew of new rules and regulations. The European Union has new law on food information to consumers that will be put into effect on December 13, 2016. EU Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers changes existing legislation on food labeling to include: mandatory nutrition information on processed foods; mandatory origin labeling of unprocessed meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry; highlighting allergens e.g. peanuts or milk in the list of ingredients; better legibility i.e.

The United States isn't the only country in the world that is getting slew of new rules and regulations. The European Union has new law on food information to consumers that will be put into effect on December 13, 2016. EU Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers changes existing legislation on food labeling to include: mandatory nutrition information on processed foods; mandatory origin labeling of unprocessed meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry; highlighting allergens e.g. peanuts or milk in the list of ingredients; better legibility i.e. minimum size of text; and requirements on information on allergens also cover non pre-packed foods including those sold in restaurants and cafes.

The part that struck me was the rule regarding "better legibility i.e. minimum size of text." I was out shopping over the weekend, and stopped into an Ulta cosmetics store. Since I don't use any cosmetics that are made in China, I read labels carefully. Oddly enough, the labels were nearly impossible to read! It seems that since so much information is required on labels for products sold in the U.S., the manufacturers have gone to smaller and smaller text fonts in order to get all the information onto the label.

The text was much smaller than this. In fact, this is a large font size (#8) compared to the font size on most of the cosmetic packaging in the store. While I couldn't find the exact text size for the new EU regulation, my bet is that manufacturers were putting the information in such a tiny font size that it was virtually unreadable. To solve that problem, the new EU regulation has implemented a minimum font size of text so that it can be read.

With the drive toward reducing packaging and sustainability, manufacturers were making the print smaller rather than making the package larger. However, since this new EU regulation requires a minimum text size - presumably so that it's readable - I'm betting that the size of the packaging will have to increase. That obviously means the use of more plastic packaging. That's good for the plastics industry!

Labeling regulations, while intended to be helpful to consumers who want to know what's in the food, health and beauty products they buy, but the downside is that manufacturers will either have to increase the size of the packaging so the label can be larger or attach a magnifying glass to every package so the consumer can read the "fine print" so to speak.

The government regulators can't have it both ways. They can't have less packaging materials for products and 1,000 words of product information on the package.

Luckily for manufacturers, they have until December 13, 2016 to implement the rules on the packaging. That gives them plenty of time to think up creative ways to put more information on smaller labels and be in compliance. Perhaps "Smart Packaging" would be a good idea. Rather than put the information on the package, just put a bar code or QR code on the package so that when you take a picture of the code, all the information comes up on your smart phone. I've read that's already in the experimental stages.

Personally, I vote for larger packaging - especially of the plastic variety - so that I don't go blind trying to find out where my food or cosmetics come from or what's in them. 

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