Food Labelling Regulations
As a food manufacturer or processor you have an obligation to ensure your labels meet labelling regulations. In 2016 the European Food Information Regulation was fully introduced and sets out in law what needs to appear on your food labels. Here’s an explanation of what needs to appear on your labels.
Name of food or drink
The name of your food or drink must be clearly stated on the packaging. If your food name gives no indication about what is in the item or how it is processed, this information is even more crucial to your consumers.
You will need to add how the food has been processed i.e salted, smoked or dried. Your name should also include a description to describe any differences to similar products for example a ‘fruit ice cream or ‘fruit drink’ should be made using real fruits. Whereas a fruit flavoured product can be used using artificial flavourings.
List of Ingredients
As it suggests, this list must include all of the ingredients used in the food or drink, even water and any additives. You will need to list the ingredients by order of weight, starting with the largest used ingredient and ending with the smallest. You need to list the ingredient names in the language applicable to where the item is being sold.
Genetically Modified (GM) ingredients
Any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or ingredients made from GMOs must be listed or indicated on the food label. Foods made with GM technology (e.g. cheese produced with GM enzymes) or any products such as meat, milk and eggs from animals fed on GM animal feed do not have to be labelled.
Drinks containing alcohol or caffeine
Drinks or beverages that contain more than 1.2% by volume of alcohol must be labelled with the actual strength of the volume of alcohol. Beverages with high caffeine content, i.e. more than 150mg/l, have to be labelled with the amount of caffeine that they contain, unless they are based on coffee or tea. This is because drinks containing high amounts of caffeine are not recommended for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Weight or volume
The weight or volume of a food or drink must be shown on the label if it is more than 5g or 5ml. The weight or volume does not have to be exact but must be at least within a few grams or millilitres. Many food types are packages in liquid, e.g. sweetcorn, the drained weight of the food should be clearly displayed. Some foods, such as loose tea and butter, are sold only in standard amounts.
The symbol ‘e’ is used to show that the weight complies with the EU requirement for weight under the average system, i.e. the average pack is at least the weight declared.
Comparing the weight and the price of different brands allows your consumers to make choices on value for money between brands.
Date marks and storage conditions
Nearly all foods must be marked with either a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date mark so that it is clear how long a product is likely to last once it has been bought and/or opened by your consumers.
The ‘use by’ date is used for foods that have short lives, e.g. milk, meat, fish and are therefore not safe to eat after this date.
Other foods have a best before date, which means that this date the foods may not be at their best but most likely still safe to eat, subject to being stored appropriately. Storage instructions must be included to ensure freshness. Following storage and preparation instructions should prevent food from spoiling too quickly, lower the risk of food poisoning and ensure the food looks and tastes its best when eaten.
Other guidance on the mode of storage has become universal. For example, a simple star system is used to indicate what temperature the food should be held at and for how long:
* -6°C for 1 week (pre-frozen food only)
** -12°C for 1 month (pre-frozen food only)
*** -18°C for 3 months (pre-frozen food only)
**** -18°C or colder for 6 months (pre-frozen food; can also be used to freeze fresh food from room temperature)
Preparation and storage instructions
Instructions on how to prepare and cook the food must be given on the label if necessary. If the food has to be heated, instructions must be given for the temperature of the oven and cooking time or for how to heat in a microwave (if applicable). These instructions should ensure the food tastes its best and that it will be thoroughly heated to a core temperature of 75°C, which minimises the risk of food poisoning.
Name and address of manufacturer
Contact details for you, the food manufacturer, who is responsible for the information on the label must be stated clearly. This gives your consumers the opportunity to contact you if they have a complaint about the product or if they need to know more about it.
Country of origin
Your label must display clearly where the food has come from. You must detail this on the label, otherwise it would be misleading not to show it, e.g. a tub of Greek yogurt which was made in the UK. This includes fresh and frozen meat. The origin of the main ingredients has to be given also if this is different from where the final product is made.
Lot or batch number
This is required under UK law but is not part of the labelling regulations. The lot or batch number is a code that can identify batches of food in the event that they have to be recalled by you, the manufacturer, packer or producer. A date mark is sometimes used as a lot mark, or a lot mark may be indicated by the letter ‘L’.
Several other details may be included on the label but isn’t mandatory includes:- recipes and cooking instructions on labels for use of the product. You may wish to include a picture of the product used as a side dish for example, however you must note that the picture is a serving suggestion only, not to show how the food product will look once removed from the packaging.
There are 14 food ingredients –
- Nuts from trees (such as Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts),
- Molluscs (such as mussels and oysters),
- Crustaceans (including crab and shrimps),
- Soy beans,
- Cereals containing gluten (wheat, barley, rye and oats),
- Sesame seeds,
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites
– that must always be clearly labelled as they are known to cause allergies and intolerances in some individuals.
According to the European regulation (which started to come into force from 2014) these ingredients or foods must be declared in the ingredients list and be highlighted in a way that makes it stand out e.g. in a different font or in bold. For example, ‘single cream (milk)’ or ‘salmon (fish)’.
If there is no ingredients list, for example on a bottle of wine that contains sulphites, the food or ingredient must be highlighted somewhere else on the label.
In the regulations, allergen information is not allowed to be repeated anywhere else on packaging. However, sign posting to the allergen information in the ingredients list is allowed. This means allergy advice boxes or statements to warn customers when a food contains an allergen or has a cross-contamination risk with an allergen are no longer allowed.
However, they can be used to direct your consumers to the allergen information in the ingredients list.
The new regulations also ensure that allergy information is provided on non-pre-packed food in restaurants and cafes, either displayed on menus or available on request.
Seven out of ten severe allergic reactions occur when people eat outside of their home so this should be especially helpful to your consumers with food allergies and intolerances.
Mandatory ‘back of pack’ nutrition labelling
From 13 December 2016, a nutrition declaration on the back of pack has been mandatory for pre-packed foods and has to be presented per 100g/ml or per portion.
The following needs to be included: energy value (in kJ and kcal), and amount in grams of fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt.
More information can be included but is not compulsory for monounsaturates, polyunsaturates, starch, fibre, vitamins or minerals.
If a nutrition or health claim is made on the packaging then the nutrient in question must be declared.
Voluntary front of pack labelling
Repetition of certain nutrients from back of pack labelling is allowed on a voluntary basis, so if you feel your consumers will benefit from this then go ahead!
In the UK, following new government guidelines, a consistent front of pack labelling scheme has been implemented combining guideline daily amounts (GDA) traffic light colour coding with high, medium or low text.
If you have a colour label printer , BarTender (the label design software we tend to recommend) is able to dynamically print the ‘traffic light’ colours when printing from a database.
A note on labels
The food labels we provide you with will be manufactured with a Grade A BRC/IoP (British Retail Consortium and Institute of Packaging) accreditation. That will give your larger retail customers piece of mind.
Just because you need to meet certain regulations for your self-adhesive food labels doesn’t mean you can’t be imaginative and have an eye-catching label.
We can create labels in pretty much any shape for you, from circular to rectangular or even a custom shape to suit your design.
We offer labels with high definition colour, foils, short and long term life and special freezer adhesives all in accordance with the food safe regulations you need to adhere to.
Remember, your product label is a very important marketing tool so you must set the right tone for your product. This is true of any product but especially food. In a supermarket filled with choice, your product needs to show that it will be delicious and high quality, so the label needs to portray this to your customers.
You need an outstanding label to reflect your high quality food and that gives all of the information the customer requires.
Printing your food labels in-house
If you need to overprint a custom label with any changeable information, BarTender is the label software that we recommend (having worked with it for twenty years). BarTender can be configured to automatically embolden, italicise or underline any of the ingredients or allergens who you need to highlight to your consumers. It can also automatically create the food ‘traffic lights’ from data in a database. Click here to find out more about BarTender and it’s wealth of capabilities.
Call us today on 01359 271 111 to discuss your food label requirements or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on the following link to find out more about what you need to show on your labels: https://www.gov.uk/food-labelling-and-packaging/food-labelling-what-you-must-show