The new EU Food Information Regulation 1169/2011 (FIR), which will be directly applicable in all member states, was published in the Official Journal on 22 November 2011.  The Regulation will replace the existing Food Labelling Directive 2000/13/EC and Directive 90/496/EEC on nutrition labelling. Transitional arrangements mean that most requirements do not apply until 2014 and nutrition labelling will become mandatory in 2016.

Key areas:

  • A minimum font size for the mandatory information on most food labels will aid clarity.
  • Nutrition information will be required in tabular format for pre-packed food.  Energy value and amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrates, protein, sugars and salt will need to be indicated “in the same field of vision” (i.e. not necessarily front of pack) per 100g or per 100ml, and may additionally be expressed on a per portion basis.
  • Additional mandatory requirements have been included in the name of the food, including how the food has been processed, if there is added water, if the product is formed or imitation food, if to omit such information would mislead.
  • If the product has been previously frozen and defrosted before sale, the name should include “defrosted” unless the defrosting has no negative impact on the safety or quality of the food.
  • Drinks with high caffeine content will have to be additionally labelled as not recommended for children or pregnant and breastfeeding women, with the actual caffeine content quoted.
  • The types of vegetable oil used in food, such as palm oil, must be stated.
  • Allergen information will be extended to loose foods and catering situations with flexibility in how businesses provide this to consumers.
  • Finally, in a product’s presentation there must be priority of legal information and there is a new requirement of legibility.

The FIR sets out a timetable for a number of Commission Impact Assessments or reports on issues that could not be sufficiently resolved during the negotiations.  These include certain Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) for meat, energy values on alcohol labelling and how to deal with trans fats, which may be accompanied by legislative proposals ‘if appropriate’.  A ‘watching brief’ on these future developments is recommended for those products that may be affected by these issues.