Food Labelling

In case you are supplying labelled food product (in for example cans, jars or boxes) you will have to take into account labelling requirements laid down in the EU regulation 1169/2011. In sum, you should inform consumers about composition, manufacturer, storage methods and preparation.

The label must be:

  • clear and easy to read
  • permanent
  • easy to understand
  • easily visible
  • not misleading

It must also contain:  certain basic information and certain warnings. The key information you need to know is:

  • Basic information
  • Warnings – if applicable
  • Nutrition labelling – if applicable

Basic Information:

You must show the following information on the front of packaged food:

  • The name under which the product is sold. No trademark, brand name or fancy name may substitute the generic name but rather may be used in addition. Particulars as to the physical condition of the foodstuff or the specific treatment it has undergone (powdered, freeze-dried, deep-frozen, concentrated, smoked, irradiated or treated with ionizing radiation) must be included where omission of such may confuse the purchaser.
  • The list of ingredients, preceded by the word "Ingredients", must show all ingredients (including additives) in descending order of weight as recorded at the time of their use in the manufacture and designated by their specific name. In the case of those products that may contain ingredients liable to cause allergies or intolerances, such as alcoholic beverages, a clear indication should be given on the label by the word “contains” followed by the name of the ingredient. However, this indication will not be necessary provided the specific name is included in the list of ingredients.
  • The net quantity of pre-packaged foodstuffs in metric units (litre, centilitre, millilitre) for liquids and (kilogram, gram) for non-liquids.
  • The date of minimum durability consisting of day, month and year in that order and preceded by the words "best before" or "best before end" or the "use by" date for highly perishable goods.
  • Any special conditions for keeping or use.
  • The name or business name and address of the manufacturer, packager or importer established in the EU.
  • Instructions of use or cooking, where appropriate.
  • Indication of the acquired alcoholic strength for beverages containing more than 1.2% by volume.
  • Lot marking on pre-packaged foodstuffs with the marking preceded by the letter "L".

This information must appear on the packaging or on a label attached to pre-packaged food. If it is intended for mass caterers (foodstuffs sold in bulk), the compulsory labelling particulars must appear on commercial documents while the name under which it is sold, the date of durability or use-by-date and the name of manufacturer must appear on the external packaging.

The label must not mislead the purchaser as to the food’s characteristics or effects nor attribute the food special properties for the prevention, treatment or cure of a human disease. The information provided by labels must be easy to understand, easily visible, clearly legible and indelible and must appear in the official language(s) of the country where the product is marketed. However, the use of foreign terms or expressions easily understood by the purchaser may be allowed.

You must be able to see the quantity information when you read the name of the food on the label.

You don’t have to show the weight or volume on foods sold by number, eg. 2 packages of coffee, provided that you can clearly see the number of items inside the packaging.

If you put the ℮ mark on the label you can export your product to another European Economic Area (EEA) country without having to meet weights and measures requirements of that country.

Information You May Have to Show:

Warnings, if they apply to your product:

  • if the product contains GM ingredients, unless their presence is accidental and 0.9% or less
  • if the product has been radiated
  • the words ‘packaged in a protective atmosphere’ if the food is packaged using a packaging gas
  • if your food contains certain ingredients:

Ingredient

Wording you must use

Allura red (E129)

‘May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’

Aspartame

‘Contains a source of phenylalanine’

Caffeine over 150 mg/l

‘Not suitable for children, pregnant women and persons sensitive to caffeine’

Carmoisine (E122)

‘May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’

Liquorice

‘Contains liquorice’ (you may need extra wording for confectionery or alcohol containing liquorice)

Polyols

‘Excessive consumption may cause a laxative effect’

Ponceau 4R (E124)

‘May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’

Quinoline yellow (E104)

‘May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’

Raw milk

‘This milk has not been heat-treated and may therefore contain organisms harmful to health’

Skimmed milk with non-milk fat

There’s no fixed wording, but you must show a warning that the product is unfit or not to be used for babies.

Sulphur dioxide over 10mg/l

‘Contains sulphur dioxide (or sulphites/sulfites)’

Sunset yellow (E110)

‘May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’

Sweeteners

‘With sweetener(s)’

Sweeteners and sugar

‘With sugar and sweetener(s)’

Tartrazine (E102)

‘May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients List

If your food product has 2 or more ingredients (including any additives), you must list them all. Ingredients must be listed in order of weight, with the main ingredient first.

You also have to show the percentage of an ingredient if it is:

  • highlighted by the labelling or a picture on a package, eg ‘extra mint’
  • mentioned in the name of the product, eg ‘mint and lemon pasty’
  • normally connected with the name by the consumer, eg fruit in a summer pudding

Allergens: If your product contains any of the following allergens you must say so clearly on the label, and list them in the ingredients:

  • celery
  • cereals containing gluten - including wheat, rye, barley and oats
  • crustaceans - including prawns, crab and lobster
  • eggs
  • fish
  • lupin
  • milk
  • molluscs - including squid, mussels, cockles, whelks and snails
  • mustard
  • nuts
  • peanuts
  • sesame seeds
  • soya beans
  • sulphur dioxide or sulphites at levels above 10mg per kilogram or per litre

Nutrition labelling: You must have nutrition labelling if:

  • you make a nutrition or health claim
  • you’ve added vitamins or minerals to the food

There are specific rules if you want to make a nutrition claim (eg low fat) or a health claim (eg pepper helps maintain normal bones). You can’t claim or imply that food can treat, prevent or cure any disease or medical condition. See detailed information here. There are also specific rules if you are manufacturing, selling or exporting:

  • a food supplement
  • a food fortified with vitamins and minerals

There are also specific rules for ‘parnuts foods’, eg:

  • formula milk for infants and young children
  • baby food
  • meal and total diet replacement for weight control
  • medical foods

Products Sold Loose or In Catering Businesses

If you run a catering business, you sell food loose or package it for sale in your shop, you only need to show:

  • the name of the food
  • if any of the ingredients have been irradiated, or have come from genetically modified sources
  • any food additive you have added
  • allergen information

The EU labelling rules changed in December 2014. Here we explain the new rules only. If you exported labelled food before and want to know the main differences, they are:

  • Improved legibility of information (minimum font size for mandatory information);
  • Clearer and harmonised presentation of allergens (e.g. soy, nuts, gluten, lactose) for prepacked foods (emphasis by font, style or background colour) in the list of ingredients;
  • Mandatory allergen information for non-prepacked food, including in restaurants and cafes;
  • Requirement of certain nutrition information for majority of prepacked processed foods;
  • Mandatory origin information for fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry;
  • Same labelling requirements for online, distance-selling or buying in a shop;
  • List of engineered nanomaterials in the ingredients.
  • Specific information on the vegetable origin of refined oils and fats;
  • Strengthened rules to prevent misleading practices;
  • Indication of substitute ingredient for 'Imitation' foods;
  • Clear indication of "formed meat" or "formed fish"; and
  • Clear indication of defrosted products.

The rules on EU labelling have changed on 13 December 2014. They apply from that date onwards except the obligation to provide nutrition information that will apply as of 13 December 2016

Tips:

  • Click here for the Infographic on the EU food labelling rules
  • Click here for Questions and answers on the application of the food labelling regulation
  • Click here for Questions and answers on food information for consumers
  • Click here for a practical guidance document on the new food labelling legislation published by Food and Drink Industry Ireland
  • For more information about nutrition and health claims refer to the website of the EU
  • Refer to Annex IIIa of Directive 2000/13/EC for an overview of all allergens.
  • Note that the presence of allergens is becoming more and more important. The chance of cross-contamination (e.g. when a product is processed in a factory which also proceed peanuts) is sometimes even considered to be possible at plantation level
     
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