One of the biggest overhauls in European food labelling legislation is well underway. The Food Information for Consumers Regulation EU 1169/2011 (FIC) is gradually being brought into force across Europe with the dual aim of harmonising food labelling legislation across all member states and bringing into force new, more stringent, labelling requirements.

What do I need to know?

FIC consolidates and updates existing European legislation surrounding general food and nutrition labelling into a single text. It applies to all food and drink (FAD) business operators where their activities (i) concern the provision of food/drink information to consumers or (ii) concerns food or drink products intended for the final consumer (including food or drink products delivered by mass caterers, and food or drink products intended for supply to mass caterers). The UK Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs issued guidance on compliance with FIC in November 2012 and FAD businesses are strongly advised to consider this guidance in order to ensure that they fully understand their requirements under FIC. A link to this guidance can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/82663/consult-fic-guidance-20121116.pdf

Key dates

FIC entered into force on 13 December 2011 with a staggered transition period. Rules surrounding the composition and labelling of minced meat took effect in all member states from 1 January, 2014. The majority of the general labelling rules, however, will not be applicable in member states until 13 December 2014. Furthermore, from 13 December 2016 there is a mandatory requirement to provide a nutrition declaration on the majority of pre-packaged foods.

Key changes

  • From 13 December 2014 the main changes which come into effect include:
  • Additional mandatory labelling requirements;
  • Minimum font size for mandatory information;
  • Allergen information to be provided for non pre packed food;
  • An extension of country of origin labelling requirements; and
  • Specific distance selling and advertising requirements.

What should I do?

  • Ensure you understand FIC and the relevant guidance;
  • Consider your existing FAD labels and the changes that will need to be made to comply with FIC;
  • If you produce your own labels – have a conversation with your printers to ensure they are able to print the new labels in a timeframe which enables you to comply with FIC deadlines;
  • Have a conversation with your suppliers to ensure that they are aware of the labelling changes and are taking the appropriate steps to ensure compliance with FIC;
  • Consider updating any contractual agreements that you have with your suppliers to ensure that they reflect the requirements for FAD products to be compliant with FIC;
  • Put a plan in place to ensure that no stock containing out of date labels are marketed after 13 December 2014;
  • Consider the changes your business needs to make to the information provided online and in store; and
  • Keep the changes which will come into effect in December 2016 on your radar.

Penalties

In the UK, failure to comply with FIC may result in enforcement officers issuing enforcement notices or ultimately, bringing a criminal action which could result in a criminal conviction and a fine of up to £5,000 per offence.

Conclusion

The clock is ticking. FAD business operators are recommended to urgently consider how the above changes will affect their business and to ensure that they have planned effectively so that they comply with the timeframe laid out by FIC.