Dear clients and cooperation partners,
On 25 October 2011, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council adopted Regulation No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers1 (the Regulation). The Regulation entails updates on food labelling and becomes effective from the end of 2014 for all European Union (EU) food business operators, both producers and traders, as well as importers to the EU.
This merges and updates two fields of food labelling: labelling of general foodstuffs and presentation of nutritional information. Taking into account the food market development and targets set by the European Commission (EC) in protecting consumers and reducing obesity, the Regulation sets clear principles for mandatory and voluntary indication of foodstuff information, as well as imposing new requirements for labelling of foodstuffs to make it clear and understandable for consumers and let them make an informed choice of food.
The Regulation applies to food business operators at all stages of the food chain, where their activities involve provision of food information to consumers. It applies to all foods intended for the final consumer, including foods delivered by mass caterers, and foods intended for supply to mass caterers, as well as certain catering services provided by transport companies.
The Regulation states that a food business operator responsible for food information is an operator under whose name or business name the food is marketed or, if that operator is not established in the EU, the importer into the EU market.
Introduction of the Regulation will ensure clear and more comprehensive information about food products and will allow consumers to make an informed and deliberate choice of food. The Regulation will significantly affect producers and traders as well because most likely large-scale changes are to be introduced in package design, as well as in product information to be provided on the home page and catalogues for distance-sold food. The Regulation will also significantly affect not only food traders in the EU, but also importers because imported food has to be labelled in compliance with the requirements of the Regulation. Thus all companies involved in the process of food distribution (producers, traders, packers, restaurants) must timely assess the requirements of the Regulation and implement systematic action to ensure compliance with those requirements in contracts, menus and other daily operations.
The Regulation sets several new requirements, the most significant of them being the following:
- List of mandatory particulars – indication of certain particulars on foodstuff labelling that is mandatory, for example, the name of the food, the list of ingredients, any ingredient determined as causing allergies, a nutritional declaration.
- Country of origin or place of provenance – indication is mandatory, where failure to indicate this might mislead the consumer as to the true country of origin or place of provenance of the food, for meat of specific types (fresh, chilled or frozen swine, sheep or goat, poultry). The place of provenance for primary ingredients must be indicated if it differs from the place where the finished product is made. Within two years after the Regulation comes into effect, the EC will submit a report regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for other foods, for example, milk, single ingredient products or ingredients that represent more than 50% of a food.
- Mandatory indication of key nutritional elements – will be necessary for most foods and all prepacked foods. Mandatory labelling of key nutritional elements in the principal field of vision is introduced. Simplified information can be shown on the package voluntarily. The nutrition declaration has to show the energy value, the amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt per 100 g or 100 ml, or per portion. For some products this information can also be provided voluntarily. Information must be indicated together, ie, it may not be divided on several sides of the package. The requirement will not apply where foods are offered for sale to the final consumer or to mass caterers without prepackaging, or where foods are packed on the sales premises at the consumer’s request or prepacked for direct sale.
- Specific font size – most foodstuffs (except non-prepacked foodstuffs) will have the minimum font size determined for mandatory information. The font size will be calculated depending on the size of the labelling area and it will have to ensure clear legibility of the information.
- Labelling of certain substances or products causing allergies or intolerances – must be indicated on all foodstuffs (irrespective of whether the foodstuffs on sale are prepacked or non-prepacked). For prepacked products, substances or products causing allergies must be emphasised in the list of ingredients. They also have to be indicated for non-prepacked food, for example, food sold in a restaurant. Annex II of the Regulation provides a list of substances causing allergies or intolerances, to name but a few, eggs, peanuts, celery, milk and mustard. If these ingredients are used during manufacture or preparation of food or if the finished product also contains them, then indication of their particulars is mandatory. Significantly, the Regulation does not set a specific procedure for how this information must be shown to the final consumer; therefore restaurants, for example, will be allowed to choose to include this information in menus.
- Requirements for distance selling – in cases of foods sold by means of distance communication, for example, web pages or catalogues, mandatory food information must be available before the purchase is concluded and the seller has to indicate it in the material supporting the distance selling or by other appropriate means. When other appropriate means are used, the mandatory food information is provided without the food business operator charging consumers supplementary costs.
- Other significant information – beverages with high caffeine content must additionally be labelled as not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women, with the caffeine content expressed. In the case of meat products which have the appearance of a cut, joint, slice, portion or carcase of meat, the name of the food will have to include an indication of the presence of added water if added water makes up more than 5% of the weight of the product. The same rules apply in the case of fishery products. Additionally, vegetable oil used in a product will have to be indicated, for example, palm oil. The Regulation provides an option to indicate a limited number of nutritional elements for alcoholic beverages; however, the Regulation states that by 13 December 2014 the EC must produce a report whether indication of ingredients and nutritional value should be mandatory for beverages containing more than 1.2% by volume of alcohol.
The Regulation is available here. It will be applicable as of 13 December 2014, except requirements for labelling the nutritional value applicable as of 13 December 2016.
1 Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 of the EP and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers, amending Regulations (EC) No. 1924/2006 and (EC) No. 1925/2006 of the EP and of the Council, and repealing Commission Directive 87/250/EEC, Council Directive 90/496/EEC, Commission Directive 1999/10/EC, Directive 2000/13/EC of the EP and of the Council, Commission Directives 2002/67/EC and 2008/5/EC and Commission Regulation (EC) No. 608/2004. OV L 304, p 18-62.