EU-wide controls on food labelling were introduced with Directive 79/112 in 1979. Over two decades additional controls were added and amendments introduced to produce a complex array of labelling requirements which have now been consolidated in the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FIC) 1169/2011.
As with all packaged foods, chilled foods must comply with current legislation on food labelling. Product labels list not only all the ingredients in descending order by weight but will also carry a ‘use by date‘ as well as additional information such as the food’s country of origin, cooking instructions, or the presence of allergens. All our members’ production sites have strict regimes for handling known allergens, such as peanuts.
Where no specific legislation exists we recommend that our members follow best practice or specific voluntary agreements or advice. For example, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has developed criteria on the use of certain marketing terms, such as ‘fresh’ and we recommends that our members follow FSA advice accordingly.
The FIC requires, for example:
- For pre-packed foods, allergen information must be emphasised in the ingredients list.
- For non-prepacked foods (including catering), allergen information must be made available to consumers.
- Nutrition labelling is required for most pre-packed foods and this must be presented in a consistent format.
- A minimum font size for the mandatory information on food labels eg. name of the food, ingredients lists, date marks etc. This also extends to voluntary front-of-pack nutrition information.
- Country of origin information has been required for fresh, chilled and frozen meat of sheep, pigs, goats and poultry since 1 April 2015.
- Compositional standards for minced meat. Where minced meat exceeds the fat and/or collagen:meat protein ratios in the regulation, it may be sold on the UK market using a national mark along with information about its composition.
- Added water over 5% must be declared in the name of the food for meat products and meat preparations which have the appearance of a cut, joint, slice, portion or carcass of meat. The same will apply to fishery products which have the appearance of a cut, joint, slice, portion, fillet or whole fishery product.
Most of the general food labelling and information requirements of the EU FIC have applied from 13 December 2014 with nutrition labelling for most prepacked food becoming mandatory from 13 December 2016.
If a nutrition and/or health claim is made or vitamins and/or minerals are added to a foodstuff, a nutrition declaration must be made in accordance with EU FIC from 13 December 2014.
A nutrition declaration (commonly referred to as ‘back of pack’ nutrition labelling) must be provided on most prepacked food from 13 December 2016. This comprises energy value, the amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt. The content of the mandatory nutrition declaration may be supplemented with an indication of the amounts of one or more of the following:
- vitamins or minerals present in significant amounts (15 % of the Nutrient Reference Values (NRV) by 100 g or 100 ml for products other than beverages, 7.5 % of the NRV by 100 ml for beverages, or 15 % of the NRV per portion if the package contains only a single portion).
From 13 December 2014 any nutrition declarations (whether provided voluntarily or due to the presence of added vitamins/minerals or the use of a nutrition/health claim for the food) must be in the format set out in EU FIC.