June 20/London/Daily Mail -- Rules on the labeling and contents of baby milks and food for people with special medical needs would be better defined to protect consumers and give clarity to the food industry, under draft legislation adopted by the European Parliament as a negotiating position with the Council. The special rules would also cover gluten intolerance and certain low-calorie diets.

The new legislation is to replace several existing laws in order to streamline and clarify labeling and composition rules, which cover products representing around 1-2% of the total food market. The changes were proposed due to problems faced by both consumers and authorities in distinguishing between foods for normal consumption and those intended for specific groups.

The report, drafted by Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE) was adopted with 603 votes in favor, eight against and eight abstentions.

Baby Milk
In the future, the labeling of all milk formulas for babies up to 12 months old (including "follow-on" formula) should not include pictures of babies or images that "idealize the use" of the product, says the text.

Parliament also says that the Commission should review the currently complex legal situation of milks intended for children between 12 and 36 months old (so-called "growing-up milks") and propose new rules for them if needed.

Gluten Intolerance
Special gluten labeling rules are also to be included in this legislation. Food products intended for people with gluten intolerance should contain less than 100mg gluten per kg and may be labeled as having "very low gluten content" whilst those containing less than 20mg of gluten per kg may be labeled "gluten free."

MEPs say the European Commission should prepare a study with a view to addressing the lack of specific rules for lactose intolerance.

Slimming Claims
MEPs are concerned that slimming claims are made on growing numbers of food product labels. Parliament says that the new rules should cover energy-restricted diets designed to replace a person's daily food intake or strict diets for obese people. These include "low-calorie diets" (800-1,200 calories per day) and "very low-calorie diets" (400-800 calories).

Statements on diet foods intended for the general public should be regulated by the 2006 health claims regulation, MEPs add.

 From the June 20, 2012, Prepared Foods Daily News