On 13 December 2014, the Regulation 1169/2011 on the Provision of Food Information to Consumers became directly applicable in Slovenia, repealing previous pieces of legislation such as the Rules on Pre-packaged Foodstuffs and the Rules on Nutritional Labelling of Foodstuffs. The main novelties food business operators will have to comply with when labelling products include emphasizing of allergens in bold or underlined text, the indication of nano-ingredients, and the use of different font sizes. The newly-introduced meas-ures are aimed at ensuring that consumers achieve higher levels of health protection and at guaranteeing their right to information.
The growing tendency to comprehensively inform and protect consumers purchasing foodstuffs is not only inducing constant amendments and improvements to food legislation, but also propelling the Slovenian (food) inspection authorities to centralize and improve their supervision practices. Following the general principles of food legislation, the labels on foodstuffs should not be unclear, ambiguous or misleading. In Slovenia, the information on labels should also be presented in the local language. One of the main novelties to EU legislation in recent years was the adoption of Regulation 1169/2011 on the Provision of Food Information to Consumers (''Regulation''), directly applicable in Slovenia as of 13 December 2014. Local food business operators, namely producers, distributors and others placing products on the Slovenian market, have thus been prudently adapting to the legislative changes by aligning their products with the new labelling requirements. Despite numerous complaints that food business operators have not been given sufficient time to adapt, Slovenian authorities routinely reiterate that the Regulation introduced changes already in 2011 and that inspectors shall therefore not be overlooking belated adaptations.
At the national level, new Guidelines for the Definition of Products that may simultaneously fall within the Definition of Medicinal Products and Products which are subject to other Regulations for Human Use (''Guidelines'') were adopted in October 2014. The Guidelines are to be used as (non-binding) guidance in case of borderline products.
Application and implementation of the Regulation and related (sub)legislation
Despite the fact that the majority of the Regulation’s provisions are directly applicable already from 13 December 2014 onwards, those provisions pertaining to the nutrition declaration shall only be in use two years later, namely as of 13 December 2016. However, should the nutrition declaration be provided on a voluntary basis already between these two dates, then it will already have to comply with the nutrition declaration requirements set under the Regulation. Those foodstuffs placed on the market or labelled prior to 13 December 2014 that do not (fully) comply with the requirements of the Regulation may still be marketed as such until the stocks of these foods are exhausted.
For the purpose of implementing the Regulation, the Slovenian Decree implementing the Regulation (Uredba o izvajanju uredbe (EU) o zagotavljanju informacij o živilih potrošnikom; ''Decree'') was adopted in January 2014. This Decree inter alia establishes the Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for Food Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection (Uprava Republike Slovenije za varno hrano, veterinarstvo in varstvo rastlin) as the new competent authority for the performance of official oversight over the implementation of the Regulation, whereas food supplements (amongst some other food categories) will be under the direct supervision of the Health Inspectorate of the Republic of Slovenia (Zdravstveni inšpektorat Republike Slovenije). The Decree prescribes fines up to EUR 30,000 per breach for firms failing to comply with the provisions of the Regulation.
In addition, the Rules on specific requirements concerning the labelling and presentation of prepackaged foodstuffs (Pravilnik o posebnih zahtevah glede označevanja in predstavljanja predpakiranih živil) were adopted on 24 November 2014, setting out (i) specific requirements regarding the “use-by” date (datum uporabe) and the minimum durability date (datum minimalne trajnosti), as well as the (ii) conditions for mandatory respectively non-mandatory indications of series (lot) numbers on labels. These rules apply as of 14 December 2014, whereas the (previously applicable) Rules on the General Labelling of Pre-packaged Foodstuffs (Pravilnik o splošnem označevanju predpakiranih živil), as well as the Rules on Nutritional Labelling of Foodstuffs (Pravilnik o označevanju hranilne vrednosti) ceased to be valid in their entirety as of the same date respectively as of 13 December 2014.
Main changes to be observed by food business operators
The main changes to be adhered to by food business operators under the Regulation in comparison to previous requirements include the following:
- food business operators bear extended responsibilities at all stages of the food chain;
- ingredients causing allergies and intolerances must be emphasized (e.g. highlighting and/or underlining of allergens, such as peanuts or milk);
- use of newly prescribed font sizes to improve legibility of labels;
- mandatory labelling of nutrition information;
- labelling of nano-ingredients;
- exclusion of the (previously mandatory) minimum durability date indication from the same visible field as the name of the product, the net quantity, and the actual alcoholic strength by volume indication, as applicable;
- indication of specific vegetable origin of vegetable oils and fats used in the manu-facture of the foodstuffs (e.g. palm oil, olive oil), whereby the sole indication of ''vegetable oil'' shall no longer suffice;
- the statement ''Contains caffeine. Not recommended for children or pregnant women'' shall be provided in the same field of vision as the name of the food for those products in which caffeine is added with a physiological purpose (in food-stuffs other than beverages).
Only few actions which were required to be made by end of 2014, inclusive of the Euro-pean Commission's reports on (i) the mandatory origin labelling, (ii) trans fatty acids and (iii) the report concerning ingredient labelling and nutrition labelling of alcoholic beverages, already took place. Hence, further amendments and supplementations to the existing legislation are anticipated.