New legislation (the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation 1169/2011) will be introduced that brings EU rules on general and nutrition labelling together into a single regulation to simplify and consolidate existing labelling legislation.
This new Food Labelling Regulation will replace current UK law. Transitional arrangements mean that most requirements do not apply until 2014 and nutrition labelling will become mandatory in 2016.
Key areas of the regulation include:
- Allergen information
– the regulation will build on current allergen labelling provisions for pre-packed foods and will introduce a new requirement for allergen information to be provided for foods sold non-packed or pre-packed for direct sale. The way that this information is provided to customers will be flexible. The three year transition period allows businesses to make the necessary changes to their processes and labelling designs in order to meet the provisions laid out in the legislation. Further information on the allergy aspect of this legislation is explained in ‘Hygiene Audit Systems One day Food Allergy Workshop’.
- Country of origin/Place of Provenance – origin requirements have been tightened and also extended to fresh and frozen meat. ‘Place of provenance’ has been retained and under this for example, Scotland or a recognised area may be used without reference to the UK.
- Nutrition labelling: ‘back of pack’ information will become mandatory on the majority of pre-packed foods, and it will be possible to voluntarily repeat on ‘front of pack’ information on nutrients of importance to public health. It will also be possible to provide voluntary nutrition information in the ‘front of pack’ format on food sold loose (e.g. on deli counters) and in catering establishments.
- Alcoholic drinks will be exempted from mandatory nutrition labelling, but it will be possible for manufacturers to provide energy information on a voluntary basis.
- Date marking: depending on the type of food, ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates will be applied to pre-packed foods. Use by dates will be more tightly linked to food safety and where appropriate i.e. for meat and fish, there will also be a date of first freezing shown on food labels.
- There will be a minimum font size for the mandatory information on most food labels.
- 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.
- The types of vegetable oil used in food, such as palm oil, must be stated.
- Added water in certain meat and fishery products will need to be shown in the name of the food if it makes up more than 5% of the final product.