In the world of food, 2017 promises to be a busy year across the European Union for regulators and regulated alike.  To the great disappointment of gourmands, farmers and producers, French foie gras exports remain blocked due to spread of avian influenza to wild ducks in France and detection of the H5N8 virus at a French duck farm last week.  At risk are the venerated “frites”, recognized as cultural heritage by UNESCO, which, among other popular foods, are fried or baked at high temperatures that may cause the formation of acrylamide, a toxic substance.  Non-governmental organisations are calling for tougher regulatory controls, which industry fears might affect taste, among other things, and the Commission has been waffling in all directions.  

Confrontations between health advocates, industry groups and national regulators also are running rampant on everything from possible taxes based on sugar content, to “traffic light” food labeling for consumers, to whether foods with pesticide residues may be labeled as “organic.”  Meanwhile, the European Commission is asking the 28 Member States to report on tetrahydrocannabinol in foods that may be present due to the use of hemp as animal feed to facilitate a safety assessment for human consumption of meat and eggs.

The European Parliament has proposed a slate of regulatory actions on food contact materials, including additional safety requirements and expanded risk assessment (see related advisory on Food Contact Materials).  Add to that calls from one of the world’s largest food producers for the Commission to adopt a unified and transparent approach to health and nutritional claims and food labelling to cut inhibiting complexity and bureaucracy and your regulatory plate already will be overflowing.  But that’s not all: the World Health Organisation’s push for implementation of binding rules and imposition of financial sanctions on companies that fail to protect persons under 16 of age when advertising foods high in saturated fats, sugar or salt is sure to have results.  Put on your seatbelts.