In response to consumer demands for increased transparency from food manufacturers and their products, food labeling requirements in the European Union are being overhauled.
Ronen Grober, a project manager for Israel's Export Institute (IEI) said that the EU intends to announce by the end of 2012 a new legislation regarding nutrition labeling which will mandate that particular nutritional information must appear on the front of all packaged food products, so consumers can easily make informed purchase decisions.
Grober explains that eco-labeling is often voluntary and will be the first step on the way to a new set of future mandatory regulations. "Israeli companies selling their products in European markets will now have to inform citizens of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during the manufacture, packaging, transport, and overall lifecycle of consumer products," he said.
This would allow consumers to influence the continued existence of such products and their subsequent environmental impact, by choosing to buy more, less, or none of them.
The EU's ultimate goal is to improve the environmental performance of consumer goods, and boost demand for items that are produced in more sustainable ways.
France may set an international precedent as the first country to make environment-oriented labeling mandatory on all consumer products. Over the past year, all food products sold in France, including imported goods, were required to display the greenhouse gas emissions caused by their journey through the production chain.
An eco-labeled loaf of bread (Photo: Eran Turgeman)
Over 1,000 products made by 168 different companies were labeled. Grober said that "the year long French pilot is coming to an end, but will most likely be continued."
However, Europe is not alone on its mission to be come more eco-friendly. In Quebec, Canada, the government recently launched a $24 million eco-labeling pilot, in an attempt raise awareness of the carbon footprint associated with various products.
In Japan, the results of a similar pilot to the one held in France, will be revealed in the near future. Therefore, the IEA is recommending that Israeli exporters begin adjusting to the expected changes in environmental labeling.
There are Israeli companies that have already begun learning the eco-labeling process. One example is M.C.P. Performance Plastic Ltd, a company based in Kibbutz Hamaapil in northern Israel that produces a wide range of plastic trays for food manufacturers across the globe, and has already contacted EcoTraders, a company that works with various industries to use new technology to improve production and generate emission reductions.
Ecotraders CEO Roni Komer, said that "the question isn't whether or not manufacturers will have to eco-label their products, but rather when it will happen."
Meanwhile, it appears as if the day when local manufacturers will have to eco-label their products is not very near. However, Grober does not dismiss the possibility that companies that do label products they export abroad, will begin eco-labeling the same products in Israel. According to Grober, this move might raise awareness to the issue in Israel.