On 6 July 2011 the European Parliament adopted new rules on food labelling with the much negotiated Food Information Regulation.

  • The new legislation will require ‘back of pack’ nutrition information 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” per 100g or per 100ml, which may additionally be expressed on a per portion basis.  A minimum font size of 1.2 mm will be required to ensure that the labels are legible. 
  • Mandatory information on allergens will be required on pre-packed foods, non-pre-packed foods and foods sold in restaurants.
  • There will be compulsory Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) for meat from pig, sheep, goat and poultry.  The framing of voluntary origin indications is intended to help prevent the risk of misleading consumers and will ensure a level playing field for food businesses.  COOL of milk and dairy products, as well as meat in processed foods, is postponed until after a Commission impact assessment on the matter is carried out.
  • The final deal excludes, for now, mandatory labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages and trans fats. 
  • In relation to sustainability concerns for palm oil, the source of vegetable oil will need to be indicated on the packaging.  Where a mixture of oils is used, this should be in priority of importance but percentages are not required. 
  • ‘False’ or ‘Imitation’ foods are addressed, i.e. foods that look similar to other foods but are made of different ingredients, such as “cheese-like” foods made with vegetable products. Where an ingredient that would normally be expected has been replaced, this will have to be clearly stated on the front of the pack in a prominent font size and next to the brand name.  Meat consisting of combined meat parts must be labelled “formed meat”. The same will apply to “formed fish”.  

The Council will formally vote on the Regulation in the Autumn.  It is currently expected that the Regulation will then be published in the final quarter of 2011.  Once the legislation comes into force, food businesses will have three years to comply with the rules.  They will have two more years, so five years in total, to comply with the mandatory nutritional declaration.