Food lobby bashes MEPs on labelling

Once again, the issue of food labelling is on the table in the European Parliament, and is at the core of heated debate. EU Food Policy (issue 56 of 15 April 2011), reports that MEPs are furious about the food industry's lobbying attempts. Breaking all etiquette rules, leaflets were placed on MEPs desks urging them to vote agains certain amendments to the Food Information proposal. MEPs across the political spectrum have denounced the aggressive industry lobbying. The Environment Committee of the European Parliament is due to vote on the issue on Tuesday 19 April.

The leaflets were distributed by the “Alliance for Food Transparency”, a name that should immediately ring alarm bells. Indeed it is funded by corporations including DSM Nutritional Products, CHR Hansen, Phytone, and Sensient.

MEP Roth-Behrendt said that she regarded this act by “Alliance for Food Transparency” as “dark and dirty”. “They have not done themselves any favours, or their clients,” she said.

The Alliance, and the lobbying blunder, has been set up by CLAN Public Affairs. Yves Lespinay of CLAN Public Affairs told EU Food Policy that the Alliance for Food Transparency was a “highly ethical” organisation. Lespinay is not new to the Brussels bubble though, being one of the ‘high-level experts’ teaching a Masterclass in EU lobbying at the European Training Institute (ETI). Both ETI and CLAN Public Affairs are based at 57 Rue Froissart in the EU quarter.

The Parliament's lead person on the issue, Sommer wants energy information on food products to be shown on the front of a pack per portion of 100 ml or 100 g. But the food industry is still lobbying hard for its Guideline Daily Amount model. Sommer said the level of lobbying on portions was "very aggressive and unacceptable".

Also MEP Holger Krahmer, who in the past has not been unwilling to host closed industry events in the Parliament, accused the lobbyists of making "false claims" in the information provided, and disqualified the lobbying as "not very responsible, a discredited approach".

Last year, CEO reported how the food lobby, led by lobby group CIAA,spent over a billion euros to fend off mandatory health information of food packaging in the form of traffic light labelling. The traffic light labelling was defeated by the lobbying battle.

At that point, CIAA even denied that they were a lobby organisation.

Finally in December last year, they joined the Commission’s voluntary lobbying register, effectively admitting they are lobbyists but grossly under-rating their lobbying expenditure (declared lobby budget 200,000-250,000 in 2009).

CEO has filed a complaint against CIAA’s submission in the lobbying register with the European Commission.

The complaint says: “According to its annual report, the CIAA in 2009 employed more than 21 full-time staff and they spent over 1,800,000 euro in wages. [..] it is impossible that only less than 14% of the staff cost of an EU-level lobby group is related to its lobbying. [..] The CIAA currently has 10 accredited lobbyists at the European Parliament, another signal that the real figure for its lobbying expenditure is far higher than what is reported.”

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