After 35 years of life the directive on food labels (DIR. 79/112 / EEC) has been replaced by the European Commission Regulation no. 1169/2011 which become in force in all Member States on 13 December 2014 (except for the provisions concerning the obligation to make a nutrition declaration, which will be applicable as from December 13, 2016).
The Regulation left three years term to Member States to amend their internal laws before entering into force
Major changes are the following:
Address of the manufacturer. The headquarters address of the food company, bound to inform the consumer about the product it manufactures, must be indicated in full details.
Allergens. Allergenic elements or elements that may cause intolerances (such as derivatives of wheat and cereals containing gluten, celery, shellfish, sulfur dioxide, peanuts, nuts, dairy products containing lactose) must be more clearly indicated in the list of ingredient shown in the packaging also using graphic highlighters, like color, bold or underlining such elements.
All such rules are also applicable to restaurants, bars and coffees that are now bound to highlight the existence of allergens in food and drinks by means of suitable tools (like in menus, blackboards or other tools), in a manner clearly visible to customers.
Caffeine. Drinks and "energy drinks" made from tea and coffee with a caffeine content exceeding 150 mg /L must show the warning language "not recommended for children and pregnant or breast-feeding people" besides the already compulsory warning: "High caffeine content"
Expiration date. Once the expiration date had to be indicated only on the outer packaging; now it must be indicated on each individual pre-packed portion. When the concerned product is unprocessed meat or fish frozen or deep frozen, the full date of freezing or deep freezing must be indicated
Fish. In the label is mandatory to add to the commercial name of the fish also the scientific name of it, a detailed indication of where the fish was caught, the means of fishing and if the fish is thawed or not.
Frozen goods. In case of meat and frozen fish and frozen food preparations of meat or frozen fish unprocessed, it is necessary to highlight the date when the product was frozen. In the event that foods were frozen before sale and then subsequently sold defrosted, the product name shall be highlighted as "defrosted".
Information on the origin. The information on the origin of a product is mandatory when the consumer could be misled as to the origin of the product (for instance Parmesan Cheese made in Spain and sold in France as if it was made in Italy)
Nutritional table. Packaged foods must have a nutritional table with seven elements (energy, fat, saturates, carbohydrates, protein, sugars and salt) per 100 g or 100 ml of the product, which may be accompanied by the data related to a single serving.
Readability and clarity of the writing. For the first time ever is a minimum size of labels is required, which must be of at least 1.2 mm (0.9 mm for smaller packs).
Obligatory information, nutrition and those concerning the origin of the product must be in the same visual field as the name. Specific provisions applies when the surface of the package is less than 10 square cm
Real state of the product. It is necessary to describe with care all treatments incurred by the product (but also of the ingredients). For instance one cannot describe the product as "milk", if using milk proteins or milk powder
Sales via the web. For the first time consumers shall receive almost all information required by the law before the purchase is concluded (like the name of the food, allergens, the list of ingredients, net quantity, etc).
Specific rules concerning, goats, sheep, pigs and poultry. As from next April 2015 the label shall show the place of rearing and slaughtering of the concerned animal, their place of birth, rearing and slaughter).
Vegetable oil'. Nobody can no longer deceive the consumer hiding behind the generic wording of "vegetable oils", the use of low-cost tropical fats (such as palm oil, coconut or cotton, harmful for cardiovascular health). Thus, 'olive oil', 'oil sunflower seed', 'palm oil', must be listed on the label in a transparent manner. Who uses extra virgin olive oil may well highlight it on the label.
Water content in prepared meat and fish. Meat, meat preparations and fishery products sold as fillets, sliced, or portions that have been strengthened with water in a measure exceeding 5% must indicate this fact on the label. Similarly, it must be indicated if protein have been added and their origin.
Exempted products. The obligation of nutrition labeling is not provided for fresh fruit and vegetables, flour, water, flavorings, spices, herbs, sweeteners, food supplements.