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Understanding the Food Information Regulations: Compliant Food Label

Understanding the Food Information Regulations.
View our annotated food label to understand how the Food Information Regulations affect your business and how you should label your food packaging

EU law requires food manufacturers and food service businesses to ensure their products and menus are labelled with specific information with regards to nutrition, composition, advertising claims and more.

DWF has produced annotated packaging showing the key areas to consider to remain compliant. As always the devil is in the detail of the Regulations, they need to be reviewed fully to determine how the specifications impact your product.

Please note: The information given in this interactive tool does not constitute legal advice. If you would like more information please get in touch.

Front of a mocked up "Legal loops" cereal packetReverse of a mocked up 'Legal Loops' cereal packet

1. Lot Mark

Close up of a Best before date and lot mark from the mocked up cereal packet

A lot mark is required in order to facilitate traceability in the event of a recall; this is usually positioned next to the durability indication.

Alternatively, the durability date can be used as a batch identification code, but this would not usually be commercially desirable as it would often result in inappropriately large batches in a recall.

2. Minimum Font Size

White text on an orange background describing the cereal

Don't forget...

The regulations define what is "legible". For packaging greater than 80cm2 all mandatory information must be at least 1.2mm high. For packaging smaller than 80cm2 this reduces to 0.9mm. Where the largest surface on the packaging has an area of less than 10cm2 the regulation relaxes the requirements and less mandatory information is required.

Diagram showing the measuring of type

Have you thought about...

Whether you can fit all of the mandatory particulars on the pack alongside your marketing messages?

If space is tight, mandatory information must take precedence over non-mandatory information.

3. Net Weight

Close up of the cereal box showing the weight '375g'

The net quantity must appear on the label in the same field of vision as the product name.

The field of vision has been defined as 'all surfaces of a package that can be read from a single viewing point.'

Products must meet weights and measures requirements which will be updated to reflect the requirements of FIC.

If packed using the average weight system, the packer may choose to use an "e" mark to demonstrate compliance with the average weight system. If used, the "e" mark must conform to prescribed form, size and conditions of use.

Have you thought about…

The net weight declaration for glazed foods - i.e. exclusive of glaze?

4. Product Description

White text on an orange background reading 'fruit flavoured whole grain cereal with vitamins and minerals'

Steps to a compliant product description:

  1. First you must determine if there is a name prescribed by law (e.g. EU directives on chocolate, water, juices, jam, etc). If there is you must use this, however if not you can follow the steps below.
  2. Is there a customary name (e.g. Eccles Cake, Cottage Pie, etc)? If there is, you can use this if you wish, if not - the name used must describe the food precisely so that the consumer knows the true nature of the product and can distinguish it from other products with which it could be confused.
  3. Then you must consider if it would be misleading if details of the physical condition or treatments the food has been subjected to are omitted (e.g. powdered, dried, concentrated, smoked, refrozen etc). If you think this would be misleading then these should accompany the name (NB: some are mandatory, e.g. 'irradiated').
  4. Finally – if there is no other name, then use a descriptive name, just make sure the description is not misleading!!

 

View our step by step flow chart to help ensure you have a compliant product description

Have you thought about…

The addition of mandatory particulars that must accompany the product description, such as:

  • refrozen;
  • defrosted;
  • substitute ingredients;
  • added proteins;
  • added water;
  • formed meat/fish; and
  • non-edible sausage casings?

 

5. Advertising considerations

If the label is to be used in any advertising, you must have regard to the advertising codes:

  1. The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP Code).
  2. The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (the BCAP Code).

Have you thought about…

ASA Watchouts: Take care when creating advertisements aimed at children, for example, encouraging 'pester power' or poor nutrition habits or involving alcohol, weight loss, health claims or nutrition claims.

6. Misleading illustrations

Cartoon illustration of cereal loops with hands

The rules

Labelling must not be misleading as to 'the characteristics of the food and, in particular, as to its nature, identity, properties, composition, quantity, durability, country of origin or place of provenance, method of manufacture or production'.

For example:

Don't

  • Use illustrations that suggest the product contains an ingredient it doesn't, for example illustrations of fresh bananas in a product that only contains artificial banana flavour.
  • Don't: use an incorrect place of origin, for example illustrations of Italy for pasta made in China.
  • Information must not mislead 'by suggesting, by means of the appearance, the description or pictorial representations, the presence of a particular food or an ingredient, while in reality a component naturally present or an ingredient normally used in that food has been substituted with a different component or a different ingredient'.

Have you thought about...

Whether your illustrations marry up to the consumer's expectations of the product?

7. Front of pack nutrition labelling ('FoP')

Close up of the nutritional label from the front of the mocked up cereal packet

Only the following nutrition information can be repeated outside of the main nutrition table:

  • the energy value; or
  • the energy value together with the amounts of fat, saturates, sugars, and salt.

A UK FoP nutrition labelling scheme has been developed, which combines this information with colour coding and percentage reference intakes.

The Department of Health, Welsh Government, Scottish Government and FSA have published joint step by step guidance to creating FoP nutrition labelling (view the guidance here).

Have you thought about...

Whether FoP nutrition labelling will benefit your product?

8. Nutrition Claim

Close up of the mocked up cereal packet reading 'High Fibre, Low Fat'

A nutrition claim is any representation that states, suggests or implies that a food has particular beneficial nutritional properties due to:

  • the energy (calorific value) it provides, provides at a reduced or increased rate, or does not provide; and/or
  • due to the nutrients or other substances it contains, contains in reduced or increased proportions, or does not contain.

Making a nutrition claim

You may only make nutrition claims listed in the Annex to the Nutrition and Health claims Regulation and must ensure that the conditions of use are met.

View our step by step flow chart to see if you can make a nutrition claim

Have you thought about...

Whether your product can benefit from any of the 29 permitted nutrition claims?

9. Additional statements

Close up of mocked up cereal box reading 'Fruit flavoured whole grain cereal with vitamins and minerals'

Additional statements are required in certain circumstances.

We have set out the required wording below:

Food types Statement required
aspartame-acesulfame salt
'contains aspartame (a source of phenylalanine)' or 'contains a source of phenylalanine'
Beverages containing caffeine in excess of 150 mg/l (except coffee or tea)
'High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women (x mg/100 ml)'
Foods other than beverages, where caffeine is added with a physiological purpose
'Contains caffeine. Not recommended for children or pregnant women (x mg/100 g)'
Foods with added phytosterols, phytosterol esters, phytostanols or phytostanol esters
'with added plant sterols' or 'with added plant stanols'

 

10. Nutrition declaration

Close up of the nutritional information on the mocked up cereal packet

Below we have set out the required format for nutrition declarations according to FIC regulations:

 

FIC Format

Per 100 g/ml

Energy

x kJ/ x kcal

Fat

x g/ml

of which Saturates

x g/ml

Monounsaturates

[if applicable] x g/ml

Polyunsaturates

[if applicable] x g/ml

Carbohydrate

x g/ml

of which Sugars

[if applicable] x g/ml

Polyols

[if applicable] x g/ml

Starch

[if applicable] x g/ml

Fibre

x g/ml

Protein

&x g/ml

Salt

x g/ml

Vitamins and minerals

In accordance with Annex XIII include % of RI/NRV

'Per serving' values also permitted in addition to per 100g/ml.

Have you thought about...

The fact that nutritional declarations were made mandatory from 13 December 2016? If declared voluntarily prior to this, the FIC format must be used from 13 December 2014.

11. Durability indication

Close up of mock cereal packet reading 'For best before date: see top of pack. Store in a cool dry place'

What type of durability indication do you need?

All products, unless exempted need to have a durability indication. This can be either a 'use by date', if the product has a short life or is highly perishable and likely to cause a risk to health immediately after the use by date, or if this is not the case you can use a 'best before date'.

You are no longer required to have the durability date in the same field of vision as the product name, and other mandatory information.

View our step by step flow chart to ensure you have a compliant durability date indication

Storage conditions

Provide appropriate storage conditions or conditions of use!

Have you thought about...

The requirements to indicate:

  • use-by on individual pre-packed portions; and
  • date of freezing?

Although common practice already, have you also thought about the requirement to provide storage conditions/time limit for consumption after opening?

12. Ingredients list

List of ingredients from mock cereal packet

What you must do:

  • Head the list with the word 'Ingredients'
  • List ingredients in descending order of weight
  • Name constituent ingredients of a compound ingredient
  • Identify additives

What you can do:

  • Use a generic name for specified permitted categories of food (e.g. cheese, herbs, spices, etc.)

What don't you need to do:

  • List ingredients for exempt foods, e.g. single ingredient foods; fresh fruit and vegetables; carbonated water; vinegar; cheese; butter; flour etc.

Have you thought about...

  1. The requirements to label nanomaterials and the source of vegetable oil or fat and MCTs?
  2. The generic name for 'mechanically separated meat'?
13. Quantitative Indication of Ingredients (QUI)

List of ingredients from mock cereal packet

QUII (currently referred to as Quantitative Ingredient Declaration or QUID) must be declared in three circumstances, where the ingredient:

  • appears in the name of the food or is usually associated with that name by the consumer;
  • is emphasised on the labelling in words, pictures or graphics; or
  • is essential to characterise a food and to distinguish it from products with which it might be confused because of its name or appearance.

Have you thought about...

The requirement to QUII non-prepacked meat products?

14. Other claims

Close up of label on mock cereal packet reading 'No artificial colours or flavouring'

There are many claims available to marketers that are not controlled by law.

Some are governed by UK guidance or recommendations and others by the general rule not to mislead, e.g:

  1. Free from preservatives – must not mislead.
  2. No artificial colours or flavouring – must not mislead.
  3. Use of the terms 'fresh', 'natural', 'pure', 'traditional', 'original', 'authentic', 'real' and 'genuine', 'home-made', 'farmhouse', 'hand-made', 'premium', 'finest', 'quality' and 'best' - refer to FSA Guidance on Criteria for the Use of the Terms Fresh, Pure, Natural etc. in Food Labelling.

Have you thought about...

Whether or how you can substantiate any claims?

15. Allergens and 'may contain'

Allergen advice. For Allergens see ingredients highlighted in bold

If any of the 14 prescribed allergens are contained in the product:

  1. They must be emphasised in the ingredients list using typeset that distinguishes the allergens from other ingredients by means of font, style, background colour, underlining, or emboldening. For example, Ingredients: Whole Grain Oats, Whole Grain Wheat, Whole Grain Barley, Sugar.
  2. The name of the allergen must follow the ingredient or additive name if its presence might not otherwise be obvious to the consumer. For example, Sodium Caseinate (Milk), tilapia (Fish) E322 (Soya).
  3. Allergen boxes are prohibited but they can still be used to signpost allergens in the ingredients list, for example 'For Allergens see ingredients highlighted in bold'.

NB: 'May contains' advisory statements may still be used where risk assessments reveal a demonstrable and significant risk of allergen cross-contamination.

The 14 allergens which must be declared are:

  • cereals containing gluten: wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut;
  • crustaceans;
  • eggs;
  • fish;
  • peanuts;
  • nuts;
  • soybeans;
  • milk;
  • celery;
  • mustard;
  • sesame seeds;
  • sulphur dioxide;
  • lupin; and
  • molluscs.

Have you thought about...

The requirement to declare allergens in non-prepacked foods?

16. Selling in multiple jurisdictions

Close up of Vitamins & minerals contents listing from the mock cereal box

Languages

If you sell in other member states, mandatory information must appear in a language easily understood by the consumers in that member state.

Remember - only a few member states accept English only labelling.

Nutrition declaration

Nutrition declarations from non-EU countries such as the USA cannot be used in addition to the FIC prescribed Nutrition Table for products sold in the EU.

Have you thought about...

How many languages you need on your packaging? Do you need to rethink your distribution processes?

17. Other symbols

Information about recycling the materials of the cereal box

Consider whether your product meets the conditions to benefit from any other marks, such as quality marks:

  • geographic indications and designations of origin (e.g. scotch beef, champagne);
  • specific character (e.g. mozzarella, traditional farmfresh turkey);
  • organic;
  • vegetarian/vegan;
  • gluten free; and
  • recycling.
18. Health claim

With crunchy wholegrain goodness, vitamin D and iron. A healthy way to start the day for little Loopers everywhere: Vitamin D for normal growth and development of bone in children and iron contributes to the normal cognitive development of children.

What is a health claim?

A health claim is a representation that states or implies that a relationship exists between a food and health. There are two types of health claim: specific (e.g. [x] is needed for maintenance of normal bones) and general (e.g. 'good for you').

How to make a specific health claim

You may only make a specific health claim that is on the permitted list of specific health claims authorised by the EU, all of which have conditions of use.

You do not have to use the exact approved wording provided the alternative has the same meaning to a consumer, however deviations from that wording increases risk. This is a high risk area and incredibly subjective.

Check if there is a relevant specific health claim – without this, a claim cannot be made. If you do have a specific claim, you need to ensure you are meeting the conditions of use in order to make the claim, but remember:

  • The permitted wording should be positioned next to the general health claim – it can be altered slightly, but not so much that it would change the meaning for the consumer.
  • The health claim must be linked to the ingredient for which the claim is authorised - not the product as a whole.

Example of an acceptable health claim: Legal Loops contain a source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D supports normal growth and development of bone in children.

Example of an unacceptable health claim: Legal Loops make kids big and strong!

Remember: Pictures, symbols and single words can be health claims e.g. ♥ could imply a healthy heart.

Remember: if a product is high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS), a claim that the product is ‘healthy' will be higher risk.

Have you thought about...

The mandatory statements that must be made on pack when making a health claim, namely a statement. These include:

  • indicating the importance of a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle;
  • the quantity of the food and pattern of consumption required to obtain the claimed beneficial effect;
  • if appropriate, a statement addressed to persons who should avoid using the food; and
  • an appropriate warning if the product is likely to present a health risk if consumed to excess.

 

19. Country of origin or place of provenance ('COO')

Produced in the UK for DWF, 1 Scott Place, 2 Hardman Street, Manchester M3 3AA

Indication of COO is generally discretionary unless:

  1. Its absence is likely to mislead consumers as to the true COO, for example, the depictions of USA on hotdogs made in Poland.
  2. It is mandatory under other EU provisions: e.g. beef and beef products, honey, fruit and vegetables, fish and olive oil.
  3. The product is fresh, chilled or frozen meat of swine, sheep, goat or poultry.
  4. The COO is given and it is not the same as that of its primary ingredient. In this case:
    • the COO of the primary ingredient shall also be given; or
    • the COO of the primary ingredient shall be indicated as being different to that of the food.

Company name and address

The label must contain the name and address of

  1. the EU manufacturer/brand owner; or
  2. the EU importer in the EU if the manufacturer/brand owner is not established in the EU.

Have you thought about...

The possible future of COO labelling?

The EU Commission has commissioned viability reports for:

  • milk and milk used in dairy products;
  • meat used as an ingredient;
  • unprocessed foods;
  • single ingredient products; and
  • Ingredients that represent more than 50 per cent of a food.

As a result it is quite likely that further laws will be created.

Find out more

If you have a question or would like more information please get in touch.

Follow our DWF Food Sector LinkedIn or our Twitter account @dwf_food_law to keep up to date with all of the latest developments in the sector.

Or why not sign up to recieve our weekly Food & Retail Regulatory update which uses a traffic light system to sort all of the week's regulatory developments in order of importance.

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