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EU tells Germans salty pretzels not threatened

AFP · 24 Feb 2009, 18:43

Published: 24 Feb 2009 18:43 GMT+01:00

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Last week Bavarian bakers protested that planned European food-labelling rules would endanger the traditional pretzel.

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on Tuesday relayed concerns of German bakers that their wholebread would find itself ranked with products designated as bad for one's health, due to its relatively high salt content.

"The commission is not prohibiting any bread and has no intention to regulate the salt levels in bread," assured EU spokeswoman Nina Papadoulaki. "Our aim is to provide consumers with better information so that they can take informed choices."

At the heart of the issue are new rules on nutritional information to be placed on food products. Bakers would be free to make no health claims for their bread. If, however, they specify that it is 'high in fibre' then they would also be obliged to tell consumers that it is also 'high in salt.'

The rule was adopted in 2006 but discussions are still under way - with input from the food industry - on how they are going to be introduced and what levels would constitute a product being deemed 'low' or 'high' in anything. Salt levels are one of the key issues, along with levels of sugar or saturated fats.

In a speech this month EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou signalled a concession to the mighty German bread lobby.

"Being fully aware of citizens' sensitivities I am ready to propose a higher threshold for sodium level in bread for a limited period, allowing for step-wise salt reduction when (health) claims are made," she said.

According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, that could mean that the commission increases its recommendation for reasonable salt levels from 1.2 percent of baking flour, as advised by the European Food Safety Agency, to 1.5 percent.

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The Commission, the EU's executive arm, is hoping to finish its rule-making by spring and present the new proposals to the European parliament before its last sitting before elections in early May.

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