Food Labelling Laws – Know Your Requirements

Food labels are a great opportunity to brand and market your product. Use them to make your products stand out amongst the collection of other, similar products, on the shelves, and to provide company information. There are also a number of laws and regulations, both UK and EU laws, that need to be met. A failure to meet these regulations means that you could be forced to recall all of your products and have them relabelled, your company could be faced with fines, and customers could take you to court in some circumstances.

Your labelling needs to meet the required guidelines, and these do differ according to the type of food or drink that you manufacture, but below are some general guidelines on the regulations for companies adding labels to pre-packaged foods. A lot of loose foods, and those that are sold locally and manufactured by a company with fewer than 10 employees do not need to follow the same guidelines, but you should always check rather than assume that you don’t need to comply with these laws.

The UK food industry is governed by The Provision of Food Information for Consumer Regulations, an EU directive that came into force in December 2011, although some elements of the regulations did not take full effect until December 2016 and new regulations regarding the labelling of minced meat were added in January 2014. Also, these rules may change once we leave the EU.

Allergen Labelling

If pre-packaged food contains any of the 14 named allergens, the packaging must contain this information. The allergens must be highlighted in the ingredients, too, although you can choose whether to highlight using bold, italic, or different coloured text. The 14 named allergens are:

  • Celery
  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Crustaceans
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lupin
  • Milk
  • Molluscs
  • Mustard
  • Tree Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Sulphites

If food is prepared or packaged in a factory that uses any of these ingredients, the packaging must contain information to inform consumers of this, even if the product doesn’t specifically contain the ingredient. This is why you see “may contain nuts” on food packaging.

Food that contains vegetable oil must detail the type of vegetable oil that is included.

Nutritional Details

As of 2016, it became a legal requirement for pre-packaged food manufacturers to include nutritional details on the back of packaging. The label must include specific information on the number of calories and the amount of fat (saturated and trans fats), cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates (fibre, sugars, and added sugars), and protein, as well as salt content. The nutritional values must be displayed in this order.

If you sell vitamin fortified food, then there is additional information that must also be included on the label and packaging.

Drinks and food with high caffeine content must have the level of caffeine included on the label. There are concerns over the sale of high caffeine products to children, hence the need for this labelling.

Additional Details

Product labels must contain the name of the product, its weight or volume, all the ingredients found in the product, best before or use by dates, and storage conditions. You should also include information on preparing the food and you must include the name and address of the manufacturer, as well as a lot number. There are some exceptions to these rules; check government guidelines for the specific products that you manufacture and sell to avoid falling foul of the law.

Claims On Packaging

Food packaging can include honest and truthful claims that are backed up by data. Adding claims that are inaccurate can lead to action being taken by Food Standards or the Advertising Standards Authority.

There is currently no law that determines whether a product is considered natural or not, even though surveys suggest that a lot of shoppers look for food that contains this term. However, to be able to claim that a product is organic, it must have less than 5{38eb46271fe81e48878be6b4be600259e9b5aefb9544f7da7df00275a80316df} non-inorganic ingredients. Food that is labelled as organic must also contain the EU organic logo, your certification code and symbol, details of where the raw ingredients originate, and a traceability code.

Terms like “lite” also do not mean anything legally, but if you make claims like “low in sugar”, this must be backed up by the relevant ingredients and nutritional values, and this information must be provided on the label and packaging.

Food Labels

You should always ensure that you meet the appropriate labelling requirements to conform to EU and UK standards. A failure to do this can lead to action being taken by food or advertising authorities, and they have the power to fine and potentially even imprison those responsible.

If you do not include food allergen information, and a consumer has an allergic reaction, you could face legal action. Some allergic reactions can have a fatal outcome, and this means that your business would face negative press and a massive loss of customer trust, as well as the potential compensation claims that accompany them.

Labelling laws not only require that this information be included on labels, but that it is easy to read and legible. This means formatting labels properly is important, but it also means that the labels themselves, the ink used, and the printing techniques, need to be reliable. If packaging fades quickly, or information on ingredients and other claims is illegible, you could still face the same potential penalties. Until 2015, the maximum fine a company could face was capped at £5,000, but primarily because of the horsemeat scandal, this cap has now been removed.

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Our professional team can coordinate with your company to determine the best products. We can help install machinery, and we can train your team to work with your new printer. We also offer service and repair contracts so you can continue to enjoy high quality food labels with your new machinery, and our lease deals make every machine an affordable option. Contact us today to see how we can help you create effective and attractive food lab