Here are some frequently asked questions on the legislation on the provision of food information to consumers Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011:
What mandatory information must appear on the label of a prepacked food?
The following mandatory information must appear on the label:
(a) the name of the food*
(b) the list of ingredients
(c) any ingredient or processing aid listed in Annex II or derived from a substance or product listed in Annex II causing allergies or intolerances used in the manufacture or preparation of a food and still present in the finished product, even if in an altered form
(d) the quantity of certain ingredients or categories of ingredients
(e) the net quantity of the food*
(f) the date of minimum durability or the ‘use by’ date**
(g) any special storage conditions and/or conditions of use
(h) the name or business name and address of the food business operator referred to in Article 8(1)
(i) the country of origin or place of provenance where its absence may mislead the consumer as to the true origin or provenance of the food or where country of origin is specifically required under legislation
(j) instructions for use where it would be difficult to make appropriate use of the food in the absence of such instructions
(k) with respect to beverages containing more than 1.2 % by volume of alcohol, the actual alcoholic strength by volume*
(l) a nutrition declaration
*must appear in the same field of vision
**under the new rules the date of minimum durability or ‘use by’ date no longer needs to appear in the same field of vision as the name and net quantity
Are there any exemptions from the requirement to give these mandatory particulars?
Yes, there are some exemptions to the provision of mandatory particulars. The exemptions are detailed in Article 16 of the Regulation. In addition, Article 19 lists foods which do not require a list of ingredients and Annex X lists foods which are exempt from the requirement to provide a date of minimum durability.
Who is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the information provided on the label?
The food business operator (FBO) under whose name the food is marketed is the business responsible for the food information. Food businesses must not modify the information accompanying the food if such modification would mislead the final consumer or otherwise reduce the level of consumer protection and the possibilities for the final consumer to make informed choices. FBOs who do make changes to the food information are responsible for those changes. FBOs must not knowingly sell food that is not compliant with this Regulation even if they are not responsible for the labelling of the food, e.g., retailers.
What are the 14 allergens?
The 14 allergens as listed in Annex II are as follows:
1. Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat (such as spelt and khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats or their hybridised strains, and products thereof, except:
(a) wheat-based glucose syrups, including dextrose
(b) wheat-based maltodextrins
(c) glucose syrups based on barley
(d) cereals used for making alcoholic distillates, including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin
2. Crustaceans and products thereof
3. Eggs and products thereof
4. Fish and products thereof, except:
(a) fish gelatine used as a carrier for vitamin or carotenoid preparations
(b) fish gelatine or isinglass used as a fining agent in beer and wine
5. Peanuts and products thereof
6. Soybeans and products thereof, except:
(a) fully refined soybean oil and fat
(b) natural mixed tocopherols (E 306), natural D-alpha tocopherol, natural D-alpha tocopherol acetate, and natural D-alpha tocopherol succinate from soybean sources
(c) vegetable oils derived phytosterols and phytosterol esters from soybean sources
(d) plant stanol ester produced from vegetable oil sterols from soybean sources
7. Milk and products thereof (including lactose), except:
(a) whey used for making alcoholic distillates, including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin
8. Nuts, namely: almonds (Amygdalus communis L.), hazelnuts (Corylus avellana), walnuts (Juglans regia), cashews (Anacardium occidentale), pecan nuts (Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch), Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa), pistachio nuts (Pistacia vera), macadamia or Queensland nuts (Macadamia ternifolia), and products thereof, except for nuts used for making alcoholic distillates, including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin
9. Celery and products thereof
10. Mustard and products thereof
11. Sesame seeds and products thereof
12. Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/litre in terms of the total SO2 which are to be calculated for products as proposed ready for consumption or as reconstituted according to the instructions of the manufacturers
13. Lupin and products thereof
14. Molluscs and products thereof.
How must allergen information be displayed on the label?
Allergenic substances or products used as ingredients must be listed in the list of ingredients with a clear reference to the name of the allergenic substance or product as they are listed in Annex II of the Regulation. They must be emphasised through being typeset in a way that clearly distinguishes them from the rest of the list of ingredients, for example by means of font, style or background colour.
In this example, allergenic ingredients are in bold and italic.
Ingredients: Flour (wheat), sugar, Eggs, Milk, cocoa powder
Is there a minimum font size specified for the mandatory information?
Yes, mandatory information must be displayed with a font size where the x-height (as defined in Annex IV) is equal to or greater than 1.2 mm. A printer/designer should be able to advise on this. For packaging or containers with a surface area of less than 80 cm2, the x-height must be equal to or greater than 0.9 cm.
What is required on the label for business to business sales?
For business to business sales, where the prepacked food is intended for the final consumer but marketed at a stage prior to sale to the final consumer, or where the food is intended for supply to mass caterers for preparation, processing, splitting or cutting up, food information can be provided on the commercial documents referring to the food, where it can be guaranteed that the documents either accompany the food or were sent before or at the same time as the delivery. However, the following pieces of information must appear on the external packaging in which the prepacked foods are presented for marketing:
- Name of the food
- Date of minimum durability or the use-by date
- Any special storage conditions and/or conditions of use
- The name and business name and address of the food business operator
For business to business sales where the food is not intended for the final consumer or mass caterers, the food business supplying the food must ensure that those other food business operators are provided with sufficient information to enable them, where appropriate, to meet their provision of food information requirements.
What information must be provided for foods sold loose, e.g., foods served in restaurants, delis, canteens and foods sold without any packaging?
Information on any of the allergenic substances or products (as listed in Annex II) which are used as an ingredient in foods sold loose must be made available to the consumer. The Department of Health has published national rules (S.I. No. 489 of 2014) which require food business operators to provide this information in written format to the consumer. The FSAI have produced guidance documents to help food businesses to comply with these requirements:
- Guidance Note No. 28 - Food Allergen Information for Non-prepacked Foods in Ireland
- Allergen Information for Non-prepacked Foods
Is nutrition information mandatory on all prepacked foods?
Nutrition information became mandatory for prepacked foods on 13 December 2016. There are some exemptions from this requirement.