On December 13, 2014, Regulation 1169/2011 on Food Information to Consumers finally became legally binding across the EU, after many years of preparation. This new Regulation is a major overhaul of the regime that had been in place since 2000. It aims to provide more and better information to consumers and simpler and clearer rules for food business operators marketing products in the EU. We expect a strict enforcement of the new rules by the 28 national competent authorities in the EU, from early 2015 onwards.
Several new requirements are now in effect, including:
- New legibility requirements for the list of ingredients, in particular through the introduction of a minimum font size;
- The obligation to highlight allergens (e.g. through use of a specific typeface);
- New legally-enforceable standards for nutrition labelling, for companies using such labelling on a voluntary basis up to now;
- Stricter information requirements for specific product types and ingredients such as aspartame, vegetable oils, and non-beverage products with a high caffeine content; and
- Clearer and harmonized requirements as to where mandatory information should appear, in the case of distance sales (e.g. via the Internet).
The penalties for failure to comply with the new requirements, to be imposed by national competent authorities, are laid down in national legislation. Companies may continue to market non-compliant products that were labelled or placed on the market before December 13, until stocks are exhausted.
In addition to ensuring that they comply with the new rules, food business operators are advised to continue monitoring developments in this area, such as:
- Potential new country of origin labelling (COOL) requirements for certain categories of products and ingredients, such as milk (including in dairy products) and ingredients that represent more than 50% of a food; and
- The obligation to insert a nutrition declaration on packaging from December 13, 2016.
The further harmonization of these rules will facilitate cooperation between Member State authorities in enforcement actions. Similarly, Member State authorities have recently taken significant action against non-compliant operators in the area of health and nutrition claims (see our previous update, available here). Food business operators should expect increasing enforcement of food labelling and information rules in Europe, from early 2015 onwards.