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This year's Food Safety event focuses on the evolving regulatory landscape

News article

12 December 2014

New Look Food & Drink Labels introduced across Europe

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Food and drink manufacturers are making helpful changes to their labels in response to new European rules which come into effect tomorrow (13 December 2014).

Wide-ranging changes to the layout and information contained within labels will simplify and harmonise some of the information available on-pack and help consumers to make the most of the information available.

The top five changes to packaged food and drink labels to look out for:

  1. Allergens will now be emphasised in the ingredients list; statements such as 'Contains: milk, nuts' are no longer permitted on-pack1, though precautionary labelling such as 'May contain: milk, nuts' will still be used.
  2. A minimum font size has been set for mandatory information to increase legibility.2
  3. Nutrition information is now a mandatory requirement and will usually be provided on the 'back of pack'.3 The nutrient content will always be shown per 100g. 'Front of pack' labelling remains voluntary and there are new requirements to increase consistency and aid usage.4
  4. The specific types of vegetable oils that are contained within a food or drink will now appear in the ingredients list.5
  5. From April 2015, labels will show the origin of unprocessed pig, sheep, goat and poultry meat on-pack following an extension of country of origin labelling.6

The EU Food Information to Consumers (EU FIC) Regulation was published in the EU Official Journal in 2011; 7 since then, food and drink producers have been updating labelling across their product ranges, working to the main implementation deadline of 13 December 2014.8 However, several transition periods still apply.

Barbara Gallani, Director of Regulation, Science & Health at the Food and Drink Federation9, the voice of UK food and drink manufacturers, said:
“Food and drink labelling helps make informed purchasing decisions by enabling individuals to check, compare and choose between similar products. Consumers have long had access to considerable product information on-pack, including nutrition information which has been voluntarily provided by UK food and drink producers for nearly a decade.

“With its wide-ranging changes, the EU FIC has introduced the biggest change to on-pack labelling for the modern food industry and FDF members have been working to make sure that their product labels are compliant ahead of tomorrow's deadline. To help shoppers make the most of these changes and use them with confidence, for its part the UK food industry has updated and re-launched its popular, consumer-friendly labelling website.10 This resource builds on FDF's free food labelling toolkit for health professionals and the efforts of individual companies.10

Notes for editors

  1. The only exception to this is for products that do not have an ingredients list, such as wine where 'Contains: sulphites' may be used.
  2. Mandatory information must be printed using a font size where the x-height is equal to or greater than 1.2mm. There is an exemption for small packs where the largest surface has an area of less than 80cm2 the x-height should be equal to or greater than 0.9mm.
  3. The EU FIC Regulation allows for some exemptions in cases where nutrition labelling is not deemed of added value (e.g. tea, coffee, water, herbs and spices) or where it is not practically feasible (e.g. small packs below 25cm2).
    Companies that already provide nutrition information must comply with the new rules for nutrition labelling by 13 December 2014 whereas companies who currently do not provide nutrition labelling have until 13 December 2016.
  4. The front of pack nutrition label consists of either energy or energy, fat, saturates, sugars and salt. It is not allowed to give any other combination, so for example it is not possible to only give energy, fat and salt, nor is it possible to add other nutrients to the five, for example fibre.
  5. The EU law on food labelling used to allow manufacturers to choose to label oils under the generic name 'vegetable oil', with no reference to its specific composition.Under the new rules the label will have to identify the specific types of vegetable oils that have been used - for example, “vegetable oil (sunflower, palm and rapeseed) in varying proportions”.
  6. Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 1337/2013 lays down rules for the indication of country of origin for fresh, chilled and frozen meat of swine, sheep, goats and poultry. Under these rules, animals born, reared and slaughtered in the same member states can be labelled “origin: member state / third country”. In other cases, both the country where the animal was reared and the country of slaughter will need to be indicated on the label. The new regulation will apply from 1 April 2015.
  7. The regulation's full name is the EU Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (EU FIC). Further details on the European Commission website.
  8. There are transitional measures which mean that foods placed on the market or labelled prior to 13 December 2014 which do not comply with the requirements of the Regulation may be marketed until the stocks of foods are exhausted. Some products such as frozen, dried and canned products have a long shelf-life and may well remain on the market for several years.
  9. The Food and Drink Federation is the voice of the food and drink manufacturing industry - the UK's largest manufacturing sector.
  10. FDF's new labelling microsite: www.foodlabel.org.uk
  11. FDF's free, downloadable 'Food and drink labelling toolkit' can be downloaded here

For more information, please contact:

FDF press office on 020 7420 7118/40

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