The quality of food is an excellent topic for heated debates. The regularly updated German Food Code (Deutsches Lebensmittelbuch) has provided guidance to consumers and producers for decades. The Internet portal of the German Food Code Commission contains information on what consumers may expect from food. TÜV SÜD's food experts explain to consumers how to use the Food Code.
What ingredients go into a turkey kebab? What should the percentage of whole grain be in wholegrain bread? Can the tail fin be left on rollmop herrings? All parties interested or involved in the food industry will find the answers in the German Food Code. The book describes over 2000 food products and their composition. It also explains how these food products are produced and processed.
The German Food Code is not a legal act. It describes justified consumer expectations, but also best practices in manufacturing and retailing for specific food products. This kind of written basis offers a multitude of benefits for market transparency, clear product labelling and food Disputes.
At present the Food Code comprises 21 individual principles sorted by product group, e.g. principles for meat and meat products or for ice-cream. These principles are developed by 32 voluntary and independent experts from the German Food Code Commission. The Commission first convened in 1962. Since then, new members have been appointed by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture every five years. The Commission has equal representation, which means it has an equal number of members from the worlds of science, food supervisory authorities, consumers and food industry.
A unanimous vote is required to adopt new principles or change existing ones. This approach ensures that the Food Code represents a consensus developed and shared by all members.
Example: Consumers interested to know the definition of “meat salad” will find a general description of the ingredients in the principles for deli salads. “Meat salad” should contain at least 25 percent of meat or boiled sausage. Besides mayonnaise, cucumber or gherkins are included as the only vegetable. Their percentage, together with seasoning, must not exceed 25 %. “Meat salads” that include the word “deli” or “delicatessen” in their name must contain more than 33.3% meat, and the percentage of cucumber or gherkin and seasoning must not exceed 16.5%.
The different types of food products, including their alternative names, can be looked up with the help of the A - Z index. Cold smoked garlic sausage, for example, may also be referred to as Polish sausage, salami ring, hunter's sausage, kielbasa, cabanossi or kiolbassa.
The principles most recently updated are those for ice-cream. Under the listing for "ice-cream with strawberries", consumers can find out that this type of ice-cream must include at least 10 % of strawberries, whereas “strawberry ice-cream” must include a minimum of 20 % of the fruit. If ice-cream is made exclusively from milk fat and has a certain minimum milk-fat content, the product may be called “strawberry dairy ice-cream.
The principles are regularly updated as the food market is changing constantly. When completely new food products are placed on the market, a generally accepted definition is added to the principles. Examples include packet soups, which were introduced in 1951 in competition to stock cubes, or the first fish finger, which was launched on the market in 1959. Today, new products are frequently vegan or vegetarian. Catering to this development, a specialist committee for this type of food products was established in 2016 and has launched the vote on specific principles.
The individual principles of the Food Code are available in book form or can be accessed on the web site of the German Food Code Commission at: http://www.deutsche-lebensmittelbuch-kommission.de/.
Further information on food safety can be found here.
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