Ref. Ares(2021)3604085 - 01/06/2021
Teleconference with FoodDrinkEurope
Brussels, 27.04.2020, 14:00
BRIEFING NOTE (Commission Internal)
Scene setter/Context of the meeting:
On 27 April you will have a phone call with the
- the European Food and Drink
will also have a phone call with VP Timmermans on
sustainable food chains on the same day.
The food and drink industry is the biggest manufacturing sector in Europe in terms of
employment and added value, including 290 000 companies, 99% of which are SMEs.
Food processors have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis in different ways: issues at
border crossings, availability of workers in factories (including cross-border and seasonal
workforce), need for PPE in factories, increased costs (transport, logistics, hygiene, etc.) and
(in many cases) reduced demand (depending on the outlet of their products). Producers of
drinks, products destined mostly to HORECA and speciality foods have seen a sharp drop in
demand. As big exporters, food operators have also seen changes related to external trade.
They would like all Member States to provide priority treatment for food production,
recognizing the sector as ‘essential’.
In the meantime, FDE has also been active in providing input to the Farm to Fork Strategy
about their industry’s contribution and concerns. Objective of the meeting:
The objective of the meeting is to exchange views on the most pressing problems of the food
The main issues expected to be raised by FDE are: the impact of COVID-19 on the functioning
of the food supply chain and related requests for support by the food industry; the
contribution of the sector to the Farm to Fork strategy; trade issues as well as research and
innovation in food.
for the facilitation of circulation of goods, services and persons (e.g. service providers) across
- How do you expect your sector to change and adapt in a post-COVID world? What would be
your ‘exit strategy’?
On sustainable food supply chains and the up-coming Farm to Fork Strategy:
I welcome the commitment of your sector to shift to more sustainable production practices,
including sustainable sourcing of raw materials, recycling and reuse of packaging. This is in
line with the objectives of the Farm to Fork Strategy, under preparation. All actors in the
food chain need to sustainable production also as a competitiveness opportunity.
The strategy will of course be in line with other Commission initiatives – the new Industrial
and SME strategies, the Circular Economy Action Plan etc.
We will make sure that the strategy is comprehensive and fair, that it is transformational but
also empowering for producers and especially that SMEs get the necessary support in the
Possible questions to the interlocutor:
- What main actions under the Farm to Fork Strategy (including regulatory or not) would be
supportive for the sustainability objectives of your sector?
- What are the top three issues for you when it comes to sustainability of food processing?
Defensives / Q&A
Question: Can the Commission help in ensuring that Member States recognize all food
products and inputs for their production (including packaging) as ‘essential’ during the
: The food industry is considered as essential by the Member States, even if the
practicalities may vary. We support actions to provide childcare services for food industry
workers. When it comes to the cross-border movement of goods, the Green Lanes have
been recommended for all goods, especially (but not limited to) the essential ones. We
remain eager to receive information on problems in free movement to evaluate further the
situation. Question: We appreciate the COM Guidelines on free movement of workers. It would be
useful if the Commission could suggest a common certificate to facilitate the free movement
of workers, including in the food sector. Is the Commission considering this?
: My services have informed the Directorate General for Employment on this option.
Question: Will the EIB also provide a financial support to operators in the food supply
chain? How will SMEs be supported?
: The EIB Group will rapidly mobilise up to EUR 40 billion to fight the crisis caused by
Covid-19. Amongst them, EUR 10 billion will be dedicated liquidity lines to banks to ensure
additional working capital support for SMEs and mid-caps. I know that there are many SMEs
in the food sector; thank you for providing them with the necessary information on EU
Question: What long-term measures are planned by the Commission to support economic
recovery after the end of the crisis?
The Commission work on economic support measures is on-going. Several
measures are under reflection but have to be confirmed. The Commission has put forward a
European roadmap to phase-out the containment measures due to the coronavirus
outbreak, to find the economic and social balance, towards a post-COVID world. A coherent
and co-ordinated response would be key.
Question: Will the Commission adjust regulatory deadlines for the acts that will be
applicable or will enter into force in the coming months?
I have instructed my services to analyse all the upcoming regulatory deadlines and
of their adequacy under the current circumstances, based on Commission competence. Your
input is of course appreciated in this respect.
Question: When will the Farm to Fork strategy be adopted, given the circumstances?
All I can say for now is that the adoption is planned in the second quarter of 2020
and my services are following the process with the Directorates for Health, Agriculture etc.
We are living in exceptional circumstances; yet the need for the COVID-19 emergency
response should, in no way, put aside other Commission priorities such as the Green Deal.
The Green Deal mentions that the Farm to Fork Strategy will cover all the stages of the food
value chain. What action does the Commission foresee for operators ‘between the farm and
the fork’: the food and drink industry, retail etc.?
: The Commission is in the process of designing the set of actions to achieve the
objective of the Farm to Fork Strategy. The food and drink industry has a key role in shaping
the footprint of the whole value chain and we will work in this direction – collaboration in
the chain will be vital. The Commission will work closely with stakeholders in designing and
implementing the actions under the strategy. We will consider the impact, particularly on
Question: How will the Commission support SMEs in the food sector in the transition?
Actions to support SMEs will be vital (as 99% of food processors are SMEs). Advisory
services on sustainability (as part of the Enterprise Europe Network) and creating SME
guidance will be one element. This and other supporting actions are proposed under the
new SME strategy, including improved access to finance. Another important aspect is to
streamline digital solutions that accompany sustainability performance, which can be
specific for the food sector. The Sustainable Europe Investment Plan and Just Transition
Mechanisms will provide sustainability incentives, including for SMEs.
Question: Will there be space for industry-led initiatives with all the new Commission
strategies (Farm to Fork, Industrial strategy etc.)?
: The new strategies are meant to create a viable framework, predictability and a
harmonised approach where needed – to meet the double challenge of a digital and
sustainability transition. Clearly, industry-led initiatives will continue to play a very important
role in advancing on environmental or health-related issues, including on food. Of course,
they need to be credible, ambitious and in line with the objectives, that Europe has set. The
Farm to Fork Strategy will build on both regulatory and non-regulatory measures. Question: How about research and innovation in the food sector?
: Research and innovation are indeed a key driver for sustainable food production and
I see a lot of potential there. The food area will be duly covered under the Horizon Europe
programme, which will follow a food system approach. Food companies also have a lot to
contribute to the innovation effort. Question: Our sector is exporting worldwide, thanks to the reputation of European food for
quality and safety. How will the Commission ensure that actions under the Farm to Fork are
aligned with other policies such as trade, in order not to jeopardise our competitiveness?
: I will work with my fellow Commissioners on external action and trade on the issue
of a level-playing field. The EU has an unmatched experience in promoting sustainable
standards, including in food, in international fora. We are open to a partnership approach
with partner countries to ensure that the European transition leads also to a global shift
towards more sustainable food production. I already mentioned the need to turn European
products into the global standard for sustainability and make this our comparative advantage,
even if it may not be an easy road. Question: What are the European Commission plans on harmonizing front-of-pack nutrition
labelling? While we can benefit from harmonization, making front-of-pack nutritional labels
obligatory can cause unnecessary costs, overwhelming information and may not necessarily
meet the sustainability objective. Answer:
The Commission will work towards a harmonized solution that meets consumer
expectations on nutritional information and avoids barriers in the Single Market, without
imposing unnecessary burden, especially for SMEs. Healthy diet is important for the
sustainable food system.
MS safety measures (HU, RO, BG) forcing drivers to enter into 14 days quarantine caused
Issues with frontier and seasonal workers – quarantine rules and restrictions have had a
serious impact on cross-border workers in the food industry. Restrictions on agricultural
seasonal workers are problematic for farming and have a potential impact for raw
material supply for the food industry: e.g: CZ has banned "cross-border commuting",
ignoring the guidelines for border management and reportedly affecting 50.000 Czech
workers commuting daily to neighbouring countries.
Restrictive measures taken by MS – RO announced that the export of the wheat, barley,
oats, maize, soybeans, flour, seed oil, sugar, biscuits, cakes and everything related to
bakery is suspended (yet, intra-EU acquisition of agricultural products can be done only if
a member country proves that the purchased products are intended for own or
community consumption, and not for export). HR is considering measures to limit
exports or set prices in case of need; BG favouring local products; PL intervention with
Impossibility to meet some new regulatory requirements – e.g. Due to the impact of the
current crisis, some companies are reporting difficulties in being able to meet the date of
1 April, date of application of the Regulation (EU) 2018/775 regarding the rules for
indicating the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient of a
Other impact on business – impacts on reduced business development, sales and slow
deliveries, requests for providing (virus free) certifications.
Impact on business and trade with countries outside the EU – Disruption of supply of raw
materials from outside the EU. Issues to supply raw materials from Asia, TR; difficulties
and delays in getting shipping containers; the prices of containers have risen; some
reports of excessive increases in freight costs and a maximum validity of 2 weeks for
The main requests of the food industry, in relation to the COVID-19 response
• Recognise the entire food chain as essential:
Define the notion of “essential goods such as food supplies” to include all food and drink
products, food ingredients, packaging and packaging material, animal feed and pet food.
The food industry is largely considered as essential/vital across most EU Member States, but
the meaning may vary in practical terms and by national context.
• Unblock transport bottlenecks:
Ensure that the guidelines are effectively implemented by the Member States.
Implement priority green lanes for food lorries and wave weekend bans
Harmonise border-crossing protocols
Consider measures to re-distribute food that cannot reach its market
set up a ‘hot-desk’ which operators could contact in the event barriers arise
• Support the food sector workforce:
Harmonized protocols for food sector workers to work safely
Advise MS to provide childcare for critical professions within the food industry
• Ensure free movement of workers for retail and food production:
Proper implementation of the EU Guidelines on mobility of workers, including for
retail and wholesale workers as well as seasonal workers.
Design an EU model of certificate for essential cross-border workers, such as in
the food sector (some MS have their own)
Support struggling businesses
Develop emergency measures for the food sector (esp. where demand has gone
down, to meet new costs to continue functioning)
• Facilitate global trade:
Hold bi-lateral talks with trade partners.
The Farm to Fork Strategy
The ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy (part of the Green Deal) aims to foster the green and fair
transition of the food system and making European food a global standard for sustainability.
Besides objectives for primary food production, it notes the importance of circularity and
reducing the impact of processors, retailers and all stages of the food supply chain. The
strategy is to be adopted by the Commission in the second quarter of 2020 (planned 29th of
April, date not confirmed) and will be accompanied by a broad stakeholder debate. The draft
Outline Paper (narrative) of the strategy and an Action plan with concrete objectives have
now undergone an inter-service consultation. The lead DGs are SANTE, AGRI and MARE (SG
as co-ordinator). GROW, ENV, CLIMA, JRC and others provide regular input. A public
consultation was held 17 February 2020 - 16 March 2020 with over 80 responses.
The Commission plans (as part of the strategy) to work with businesses in the supply chain
and co-design a Code for responsible business and marketing practices in the food supply
chain (building on existing work of the Commission, international guidelines and accounting
for the specificities of the food sector). In the long term, rules on sustainable corporate
governance can be considered.
Other (possible) actions in the draft Action plan relevant for food processing are: promoting
and scaling circular business models, revising marketing standards, looking into the
legislation on geographical indications to assess their environmental impact, reducing
plastics packaging (including single use plastics in food service), revise the food contact
materials legislation etc.
Actions to support SMEs will be vital (99% of food processors and many retailers are SMEs).
Advisory services on sustainability as part of the Enterprise Europe Network (proposed
under the new SME strategy) are a good starting point. Another key idea is to streamline
digital solutions that accompany sustainability performance, specific for the food sector.
There is a draft proposal to explore an EU sustainability label. The initiatives on labelling (in
particular the sustainable food logo) need to bear in mind the costs for SMEs.
The final list of actions is to be finalised following the Inter-Service Consultation
Main requests of FoodDrinkEurope in relation to Farm to Fork (F2F)
Coherence - align objectives, targets and timelines between various initiatives; a
common understanding about what sustainable food systems are
A Strong Single Market - Ex ante Single Market test for F2F proposals
Co-ordination with Member States - set up a high level dialogue Platform
Co-ownership - all actors to ‘co-own’ and identify co-benefits; A positive narrative to
ensure ‘buy-in’ from operators
Assess the impact of Retail Alliances on food systems transformation (to be done by
competition authorities) as the lowest price does not allow for innovation
Science and evidence based targets; Evaluation and holistic impact assessments
No compromise on food safety (e.g. in relation to packaging)
Concrete incentives for innovation - R&I funding for sustainable food systems
Create sustainable and inclusive growths and jobs (competitiveness)
Help SMEs to achieve transition through an enabling framework.
Support the quest for alternatives to chemical pesticides and fertilisers – without
Sustainable sourcing: supported by Sustainable EU trade policy, harmonised due
diligence requirements and better reliability of forest-related certification schemes
Necessity for a consistent approach throughout the Green Deal on Sustainable packaging
Harmonise the policy framework for standardised product environmental information
Provision of info to consumers: voluntary with harmonised mandatory conditions
On Consumer information - Avoid fragmentation of Single Market; Push back against
unjustified/harmful national initiatives; Digital consumer information;
On public procurement (Review methodology -> Green Public Procurement criteria for
New ambitious trade policy (Coherence: EU trade policy/CAP/ /regulatory requirements)
Front-of-pack nutritional labelling
Nutritional labelling of food falls under the primary responsibility of Commissioner
Kyriakides. EU law allows voluntary front-of-pack nutritional information using graphical
forms or symbols in addition to words or numbers. Such additional information should not
create obstacles to the free movement of goods.
The Commission had to adopt, by 2017, a Report on the use of front-of-pack nutritional
labelling. The adoption was first delayed then suspended in the summer of 2019 (in
preparation of the appointment of the new Commission). One of the actions
in the draft, Farm to Fork Strategy under the section on empowering consumers is to
‘harmonise front-of-pack nutrition labelling and explore the options to make it obligatory’.
This is however still a draft proposal to be discussed among services.
From a Single Market point of view, the proliferation of different initiatives on front-of-pack
labelling in different Member States risks causing fragmentation. In 2017, France developed
‘Nutri-score’ as a voluntary front-of-pack nutrition logo to be displayed on food products.
Belgium, Spain and Germany later recommended Nutri-Score to food business operators;
other member States e.g. the Netherlands and Portugal are also supporting this position.
Other voluntary schemes in use around Europe include the Nordic Keyhole, the UK Traffic
Lights labels and the “Nutrinform battery” recently notified by Italy.