The 2011 EU Food Regulation represents the most significant overhaul of the rules on food labelling since 1979. The core objective behind the Regulation is to ensure that food information is not misleading. The new rules apply from 13 December 2014.

Scope

The Regulation applies to food business operators at all stages of the food chain. The food business operator responsible for the provision of the food information is the operator under whose name or business the food is marketed.

While the old rules applied to “food labelling”, “food information” is a wider concept and refers to all methods of communicating food information to consumers such as information posted on websites or on social media.

Principal changes

  • Mandatory food information (e.g. ingredients, “use by” date and special storage conditions) must be marked clearly so that it is easily visible, legible and where appropriate indelible.
  • The nutrition declaration which is currently voluntary will be mandatory for most food products from 13 December 2016.
  • Currently all pre-packaged food products must specify the presence of ingredients which the EU has identified as causing allergic reactions. Under the new rules, the presence of allergens must be indicated in the list of ingredients and the name of the substance clearly identified. The requirement to indicate the presence of allergens has also been extended to non-pre-packaged (loose) foods sold in delis, canteens and other similar businesses.
  • In relation to certain foods which are, from a microbiological point of view, highly perishable, the requirement to include a date of minimum durability is replaced by the “use-by” date. Once the use-by date has passed, a food is deemed to be unsafe.
  • Country of origin labelling, which is currently mandatory for beef, fish, honey, olive oil and fresh fruit and vegetables, has been extended to include the meat of pigs, sheep, goats and poultry.
  • Any food sold through distance selling must meet the same food information requirements as food sold face-to-face. All mandatory information, with the exception of the date of minimum durability/use-by date, must be provided, before the sale.

Date of Application

The Regulation will apply from 13 December 2014, with the exception of the nutrition declaration which applies from 13 December 2016, and specific rules surrounding the designation of meats (which have been effective since 1 January 2014). Goods which are on the market or labelled prior to 13 December may be marketed in compliance with the old rules until stocks are exhausted.