The European Commission has told Sweden that it must make vitamin D fortification mandatory for all organic milk sold on the Swedish market – regardless of where it is produced – to keep in line with EU’s organic rules and ensure fair commercial competition.
The Swedish agency had planned to fortify only organic milk produced in Sweden, as well as other foodstuff like cooking oil, yoghurt and rice and oat milk.
But following the Commission's concerns on how this fit with EU regulation on organic foods, all organic milk produced within the EU sold in Sweden will have to be fortified, a spokesperson for the Swedish National Food Agency (NFA / Livsmedelsverket) confirmed.
The challenges of fortifying organic
Under the EU directive, organic milk cannot be fortified with a vitamin or mineral unless it is required by law.
This would mean that organic milk coming from elsewhere in the EU or European Economic Area (EEA) could not be fortified and therefore would not be able to compete with fortified Swedish-produced milk, the Commission wrote in a letter dated 1st July.
“Such [non-fortified] organic milk would therefore not be appealing to the consumer and would be placed in an unfair position on the Swedish market in comparison to fortified organic milk that is produced in Sweden,” wrote acting Director-General of the DG Health and Consumers Ladislav Miko.
Making fortification mandatory for all organic milk would solve this issue, the Commission said, adding that Finland had also amended its vitamin D fortification plans for this reason.
At least six months delay
The NFA has been working on legislation to expand the list of foods subject to mandatory vitamin D fortification for the last few years with some changes already made following stakeholder feedback to include sweetened milk and exclude butter.
A final list was eventually forwarded to the European Commission as part of an EU notification process giving member states the opportunity to comment and object on possible consequent barriers to trade.
It had been hoped the legislation would push through without objections, with the regulation due to come into force in autumn 2016.
But with the Commission’s organic objections in, an NFA spokesperson told us it would take over six months for a new version of the regulation to be released.
NFA experts working on the initiative were not available for comment in time for the publication of this article.