In the European Union, the regulations on labeling and information of food products have been fully harmonized since December 2014.

On December 13, 2014, the new Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers1became effective.

Key changes:

  • Improved legibility of information (minimum font size for mandatory information);  
  • Clearer and harmonized presentation of allergens (e.g., soy, nuts, gluten, lactose) on prepackaged foods (emphasis on allergens through font, style or background color) in the ingredient list;  
  • Mandatory allergen information for non-prepackaged foods, including those served in restaurants and cafes;  
  • Requires certain nutrition information for the majority of prepackaged, processed foods;  
  • Mandatory origin information for fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry;  
  • Consistent labeling requirements for online, distance-selling, or in-store purchases;   
  • Requires listing of engineered nanomaterials in the ingredients;  
  • Requires specific information on the vegetable origin of refined oils and fats;  
  • Strengthened rules to prevent misleading practices;  
  • Requires disclosure of substitute ingredient for “imitation” foods;  
  • Requires clear indication of “formed meat” or “formed fish;” and  
  • Requires clear indication of defrosted products.

In order to help food business operators prepare for the new labeling requirements, certain transition measures were agreed upon: The obligation to provide nutrition information will become effective December 13, 2016. In addition, foods placed on the market or labeled prior to December 13, 2014 that do not comply with the new regulatory requirements may continue to be sold until the stock is expended.

The European Commission plans to develop a system to ensure compliance with the new regulations. Specifically, the Commission plans to establish an EU database to maintain all mandatory labeling regulations that apply at the EU level and in the individual Member States. The database will be populated with these regulations throughout 2015.

The European Commission published a Q&A document2 to answer a series of questions concerning the application of the Regulation.

The labeling requirements for food products are very strict. Uncertainties exist both with the enterprises and with the responsible authorities. We recommend careful review of food product labeling.