New Regulations on Food Labelling
European legislation - Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC)
We have put together some of the main food labelling criteria (taken from government websites) that affect smallholders who sell pre-packaged food at farmers markets or through box schemes. New rules for food labelling came in to force from 13 December 2014. The obligation to provide nutrition information will apply from 13 December 2016.
This is not a full list of regulations - please see the appropriate government pages for a full list of labelling regulations (see end of article).
The main points of the new regulations are:
- Country of origin – mandatory origin information of unprocessed meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry. For example, it will be possible for 'Scotland', 'England', 'Wales' and 'Northern Ireland' to be used on food labels without mentioning 'UK' under new provenance rules. Also, the origin of main ingredients will have to be given if different from where the final product is made. The country where the animal was reared and slaughtered will appear on the label.
- Nutrition labelling will be required for most foods. Simplified information may be provided voluntarily on front of pack.
- Labelling clarity – a minimum font size of 1.2mm has been set for all mandatory information on most food labels.
- Allergen information will have to be provided on all food (whether sold pre-packed or loose). For pre-packed foods, the allergens will have to be highlighted on the ingredient list.
- Drinks with high caffeine content will have to be additionally labelled as not recommended for children, or pregnant and breastfeeding women, with the actual caffeine content quoted.
- Meat and fish products that look like a cut, joint or slice and contain more than 5% added water will have to show this in the name of the food.
- The types of vegetable oil used in food, such as palm oil, must be stated.
The EU has also agreed:
- To make it easier for alcoholic drinks companies to voluntarily include calorie information on product labels.
- To enable voluntary provision of calorie information in out of home settings.
- To continue to permit selling by numbers – such as a dozen bread rolls or eggs.
You must show the following information on the front of packaged food:
- the name of the food
- a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date (or instructions on where to find it)
- any necessary warnings
- quantity information
You must also show the following information - it can be on the front, side or back of the packaging:
- a list of ingredients (if there are more than 2)
- the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller
- the lot number (or use-by date if you wish)
- any special storage conditions
- instructions for use or cooking, if necessary
‘Best Before’ or ’Use By’ Date
The date of minimum durability of a foodstuff shall be the date until which the foodstuff retains its specific properties when properly stored.
The date shall be preceded by the words:
- ‘Best before ...’ when the date includes an indication of the day
- ‘Best before end ...’ in other cases
The words referred above shall be accompanied by:
- either the date itself, or
- a reference to where the date is given on the labelling
An indication of the durability date shall not be required for:
- fresh fruit and vegetables, including potatoes, which have not been peeled, cut or similarly treated
In the case of foodstuffs which, from the microbiological point of view, are highly perishable and are therefore likely after a short period to constitute an immediate danger to human health, the date of minimum durability shall be replaced by the ‘use by’ date.
Changes to food labelling will be applied from December 2014. They will help provide allergen information in a clearer and more consistent way. For example, any of the 14 allergens that are on the regulatory list will be emphasised on the label of a pre-packaged food if they are used as ingredients.
The changes are:
- Any of the 14 allergens that are on the regulatory list will be emphasised on the label, if they are used as ingredients in a pre-packaged food. Businesses can choose what method they want to use to emphasise these allergens, for example, by listing them in bold, italics, highlighted or underlined, to help identify them.
- Information about allergenic ingredients will be located in a single place, i.e. the ingredients list on pre-packed food. This means that the voluntary use of the current types of allergy boxes (such as: ‘Contains nuts’) that provide a short cut to allergen information also given in the ingredients list, will no longer be allowed.
- Currently, loose foods (that can be bought without packaging) for example in supermarkets, delis, cafes and restaurants; don’t have to provide information you need about food allergens. However, from 13 December 2014, information on any of the 14 allergens used as ingredients will need to be provided for these foods.
The 14 allergens are:
- crustaceans (for example crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, prawn)
- molluscs (for example mussels, oysters, squid)
- tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, brazils, pistachios, macadamia nuts or Queensland nuts)
- sesame seeds
- cereals containing gluten (wheat (such as spelt, Khorasan wheat/Kamut), rye, barley, oats, or their hybridised strains).
- celery and celeriac
- sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at concentration of more than ten parts per million)
The net quantity of pre-packaged foodstuffs shall be expressed:
- in units of volume in the case of liquids
- in units of mass in the case of other products
using the litre, centilitre, millilitre, kilogram or gram, as appropriate. Solid foods packed in a liquid must show the drained net weight.
The list of ingredients shall include all the ingredients of the foodstuff, in descending order of weight, as recorded at the time of their use in the manufacture of the foodstuff. It shall appear preceded by a suitable heading which includes the word ‘ingredients’.
Ingredients need not be listed in the case of:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables, including potatoes, which have not been peeled, cut or similarly treated
Carbonated water, the description of which indicates that it has been carbonated
Fermentation vinegars derived exclusively from a single basic product, provided that no other ingredient has been added;
Fermented milk and cream
- provided that no ingredient has been added other than lactic products, enzymes and micro-organism cultures essential to manufacture, or the salt needed for the manufacture of cheese other than fresh cheese and processed cheese
- Products comprising a single ingredient, where:
- the trade name is identical with the ingredient name, or
- the trade name enables the nature of the ingredient to be clearly identified
You must have nutrition labelling if:
- You make a nutrition or health claim
- You’ve added vitamins or minerals to the food
You’ll need to provide this information for all pre-packed products from December 2016. Foods on the market or labelled prior to 5 years after the Regulation came into effect which do not have a nutrition declaration can be sold until food stocks are exhausted
If you’re a retailer, you can label products ‘organic’ as long as:
- At least 95% of the farm-grown ingredients are organic
- You sell direct to customers in your shop
You must be certified by one of the organic control bodies if you produce or prepare organic food and you want to sell or label it as organic.
Date of freezing or first freezing must be shown eg. frozen on 23/10/2014
- For frozen meat / meat preparations
- Frozen unprocessed fishery products
To sell food and drink products, the label must be:
- clear and easy to read
- easy to understand
- easily visible
- not misleading
Fonts used on labels must be clear (such as Arial), and avoid ornate fonts that could be misread. For numbers avoid Arial as 6, 8 and 9 may be misread.
If you package food yourself, you must use packaging that’s suitable for food use. Suitable packaging is marked ‘for food contact’ or has a symbol on it that looks like a wine glass and a fork.
There are special rules for using plastics, ceramics or cellophane for packaging. You must have written evidence that you’ve kept to them. This is known as a ‘declaration of compliance’ and you can get it from your packaging supplier. You also have to get one if you buy food that’s already packaged for sale in any of those materials.
Any food information on the product must also be available online if the product is sold through a website.
Information taken from the following sources:
Food Standards Agency
For further enterprising information, see 'Sheep for Business, Enterprise & Profit', programme 4 in the series 'Sheep on Your Smallholding'.