Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers entered into force on 12 December 2011. Most of its provisions will apply across the EU from 13 December 2014. The Regulation should streamline and modernise EU food labelling rules and simplify what has become a very complex area.

The Regulation repeals a number of general Directives on the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs. Specific Directives and Regulations concerned with particular foodstuffs may continue to have effect.

It applies to food business operators at all stages of the food chain, where their activities concern the provision of food information to consumers.

Areas of change include:

  • Font sizes: Mandatory labelling information (e.g. ingredients, ‘use by’ date and special storage conditions) must be set out in a clear and legible manner. The font size must conform to certain size requirements proportionate to the surface area of the label. Font size requirements also apply to the nutrition declaration and allergen information.
  • Nutrition information: From 13 December 2016, most food products will be required to carry a ‘nutrition declaration’, which includes details of the energy value, amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt contained in the product. The information must be provided in a particular format, be simple and easily understood and be in the same field of vision (i.e. all the information must be on the same side of the pack).
  • Allergen Information: Information must be given on food additives, processing aids and other substances or products with an allergenic or intolerance effect used in the manufacture or preparation of food and still present in the finished product. The Regulation sets out a list of such foods, which includes gluten, eggs, fish, nuts and milk.
  • Distance Selling: Any food supplied at a distance (e.g. via a website) must meet the same information requirements as food sold in the ordinary course. In the case of distance selling, mandatory food information (other than the ‘use by date’) must be available before a purchase is concluded. The distance selling provisions do not apply to automatic vending machines or automated commercial premises.
  • Country of Origin or Place of Provenance: Origin labelling will continue to be mandatory where its absence might mislead consumers as to the true country of origin or place of provenance of the food.

The Regulation provides a framework for extending origin labelling requirements to meats other than beef (the labelling of which is already mandatory), namely that of pig, sheep, goat and poultry, whether it be fresh, chilled or frozen. The European Commission is to adopt the necessary implementing acts by 13 December 2013, following an impact assessment.

The Commission is required to report by 13 December 2014 on country of origin labelling for the following foods: meats (other than beef and the meat of pig, sheep, goat and poultry); milk; milk used as an ingredient in dairy products; unprocessed foods; single ingredient products; and ingredients that represent more then 50% of a food.

The Commission is also required to submit a report by 13 December 2013 on origin labelling of meat used as an ingredient. In light of the recent horsemeat scandal, it is understood that the Commission has agreed to expedite this report.