On 13 December 2014, Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (“Regulation”) will come into force. The Regulation sets out a number of important changes to the labelling of food and applies to all “food business operators” at all stages of the food chain. The underlying requirement of the Regulation is that food supplied to either final consumers or mass caterers needs to have the information required by the Regulation.

Whilst rules on the labelling of food have been around for some time the new rules introduced some key changes, particularly around how unpackaged food is sold.

MANDATORY FOOD INFORMATION

The Regulation prescribes 12 pieces of information that must be indicated to consumers:

  1. the name of the food;
  2. the list of ingredients;
  3. any ingredient or processing included in Annex II of the Regulation. These include, for example, cereals, eggs, crustaceans, peanuts and soybeans;
  4. the quantity of certain ingredients or categories of ingredients;
  5. the net quantity of the food;
  6. the date of the minimum durability;
  7. any special storage conditions and/or conditions of use;
  8. the country of origin or places of provenance where the Regulation requires;
  9. the name or business name and address of the relevant food business operator
  10. instructions for use;
  11. in respect of beverages, alcoholic volume if greater than 1.2%; and
  12. a nutrition declaration.

Together these are known as the “mandatory food information”.

The mandatory food information is therefore similar to the general labelling requirements under the current UK Food Labelling Regulations 1996. The Regulation sets out further guidance and requirements in relation to some of the above information.

Particular types of food need to be labelled with the required additional information which is set out in Annex III of the Regulation. For example, food containing sweeteners will need to indicate this with the phrase “with sweeteners”.

EXEMPTIONS

The Regulation contains exemptions from the requirements for the provision of all the mandatory food information. These include food that is:

  1. offered for sale to the final consumer or mass caterer without pre-packaging;
  2. packed on the premises at the consumer’s request; and
  3. pre-packed for direct sale.

The exemption is, however, not a total exemption from the labelling requirements of the Regulation. Where the food falls under one of these exemptions then only information about any of the ingredients listed in Annex II of the Regulation needs to be given to the final consumer. Annex II sets out substances that cause allergies or intolerances.

KEY CHANGES

The current UK law is set out in the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 and whilst many of the requirements will remain the same the following changes are key.

  • The Regulation will for the first time apply to all sales between businesses (the current legislation provides an exemption for labelling requirements for some food when sold between businesses);
  • Nutritional information will be mandatory from 2016. The inclusion of such information has, until now, been voluntary unless certain health claims (eg “low in fat”) were being made. Any voluntary nutritional information will need to comply with the requirements of the Regulation between now and 2016;
  • A minimum font size of not less than 1.2 mm will be required for all mandatory food information; and
  • Allergenic ingredients will need to be emphasised on the face of the label through the use of, for example, the font, colour or style.

IMPACT ON LICENSED PREMISES

Whilst the main labelling changes that the Regulation brings into force relate to food that is packaged before being sold to a consumer, there are also implications for non pre-packed food that is sold by “mass caterers”. For the purposes of the Regulation, this means premises where food is prepared to be ready for consumption by the final consumer.

This will include restaurants, cafes and canteens and operators will therefore need to ensure that they provide information about allergenic ingredients in a way that meets the requirements of the Regulation. The basic requirement is that the information is clear, visible, legible and indelible.

Premises selling non pre-packed food should therefore review:

  • the menus and food information given to customers to ensure that the required information is given and is done so in the correct manner;
  • make staff aware of the changes and provide relevant training; and
  • check that suppliers are aware of the Regulation and that sufficient information is provided to meet the obligations of the Regulation.