Labelling of Food Additives

While the FSAI Advice Line provides advice and support on the topic of food additives, it does not provide advice on the authorised use of specific additives in specific food. Please do not send us queries requesting this service. It is the responsibility of the food business owner to ensure compliance with food law by accessing the food additives information provided on our website and also through the European Commission’s database on food additives which serves as a tool to provide information about the food additives approved for use in food in the EU and their conditions of use.

Food Additives and labelling

Food additives are subject to the requirements of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to the consumer (FIC) and, as the case may be, in Regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003 and in Regulation (EC) No. 1830/2003 concerning the traceability and labelling of genetically modified organisms and the traceability of food products produced from genetically modified organisms. In addition, specific provisions on the labelling of food additives sold as such to the manufacturer or to the final consumer are contained in Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008.

Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 defines ‘ingredient’ as:

‘any substance or product, including flavourings, food additives and food enzymes, and any constituent of a compound ingredient, used in the manufacture or preparation of a food and still present in the finished product, even if in an altered form; residues shall not be considered as ‘ingredients’. 

Therefore food additives used in the production of food are considered ingredients and must be listed in the ingredients list using the name of their category followed by their specific name or EC number ( e.g. Antioxidant: Ascorbic Acid or Antioxidant: E300). However, in the case of the food additive sulphur dioxide and sulphite present at levels exceeding 10mg/kg or 10mg/l expressed as SO2 the E number may not be used as this particular substance is considered an ingredient which is known as likely to trigger adverse effects in sensitive individuals ( ie is listed as an allergen in Annex II to Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011) . This substance must appear in the list of ingredients under its full name and must be emphasised through a typeset that clearly distinguishes it from the rest of the list of ingredients. In the absence of a list of ingredients, the indication of the allergen must comprise the word ‘contains’ followed by the name of the substance or product as listed in Annex II of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011. Under this legislation the following are not considered ingredients:

  • food additives whose presence in a given food is solely due to the fact that they were contained in one or more ingredients of that food, in accordance with the carry-over principle referred to in points (a) and (b) of Article 18(1) of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008, provided that they serve no technological function in the finished product; or 
  • food additives which are used as processing aid

However, this derogation does not apply where the food additive or processing aid is derived from one of the substances or product listed in Annex II of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011.

Labelling of food additives not intended for sale to the final consumer 

Food additives not intended for sale to the final consumer, whether sold singly or mixed with each other and/or with food ingredients, may only be marketed with the labelling provided for in Article 22 of Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008. This information must be easily visible, clearly legible and indelible.  1. Article 22 of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 requires that the packaging or containers must bear the following information:   (a) the name and/or E-number as set out in Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 in respect of each food additive or a sales description which includes the name and/or E-number of each food additive; 
(b) the statement ‘for food’ or the statement ‘restricted use in food’ or a more specific reference to its intended food use; 
(c) if necessary, the special conditions of storage and/or use; 
(d) a mark identifying the batch or lot; 
(e) instructions for use, if the omission thereof would preclude appropriate use of the food additive; 
(f) the name or business name and address of the manufacturer, packager or seller; 
(g) an indication of the maximum quantity of each component or group of components subject to quantitative limitation in food and/or appropriate information in clear and easily understandable terms enabling the purchaser to comply with this Regulation or other relevant EU law; where the same limit on quantity applies to a group of components used singly or in combination, the combined percentage may be given as a single figure; the limit on quantity shall be expressed either numerically or by the quantum satis principle; 
(h) the net quantity; 
(i) the date of minimum durability or use-by-date; 
(j) where relevant, information on a food additive or other substances listed in Annex II to Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 (allergens) 2. Where food additives are sold mixed with each other and/or with other food ingredients, their packaging or containers must bear a list of all ingredients in descending order of their percentage by weight of the total.    3. Where substances (including food additives or other food ingredients) are added to food additives to facilitate their storage, sale, standardisation, dilution or dissolution, their packaging or containers must bear a list of all such substances in descending order of their percentage by weight of the total.   By way of derogation from points 1, 2 and 3 above, the information required in Point 1(e) to (g) and in Points 2 and 3 may appear merely on the documents relating to the consignment which are to be supplied with or prior to the delivery, provided that the indication ‘not for retail sale’ appears on an easily visible part of the packaging or container of the product in question.    Where food additives are supplied in tankers, all of the information above may appear merely on the accompanying documents relating to the consignment which are to be supplied with the delivery.             

Labelling of food additives intended for sale to the final consumer

In addition to the requirements set out in Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, Directive 2011/91/EU on indications or marks identifying the lot to which a foodstuff belongs and Regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003 on genetically modified food, food additives sold singly or mixed with each other and/or other food ingredients intended for sale to the final consumer may be marketed only if their packaging contains the following information:

  • the name and E-number laid down in Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 in respect of each food additive or a sales description which includes the name and E-number of each food additive;
  • the statement ‘for food’ or the statement ‘restricted use in food’ or a more specific reference to its intended food use.

 

Additional labelling requirements for table-top sweeteners

  Table-top sweeteners are defined in Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 as ‘preparations of permitted sweeteners, which may contain other food additives and/or food ingredients and which are intended for sale to the final consumer as a substitute for sugars’. The legislation requires that the sales description of a table-top sweetener must include the term ‘… -based table-top sweetener’, using the name(s) of the sweetener(s) used in its composition.

Manufacturers of table-top sweeteners must make available by appropriate means, the necessary information to allow the safe use of such products by consumers.

 

Mandatory statements for foods containing sweeteners

  Foods containing a sweetener or sweeteners authorised pursuant to Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 must accompany the name of the food with the statement ‘with sweetener (s)’ 
Foods containing both an added sugar or sugars and a sweetener or sweeteners authorised pursuant to Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008, must accompany the name of the food with the statement ‘with sugar(s) and sweetener(s)   Foods containing aspartame/ aspartame-acesulfame salt authorised pursuant to Regulation EC) No. 1333/2008 must indicate:

  • ‘contains aspartame (a source of phenylalanine)’ in cases where aspartame/ aspartame-acesulfame salt is designated in the list of ingredients only by reference to the E number

    Or

  • ‘contains a source of phenylalanine’ in cases where aspartame/aspartame-acesulfame salt is designated in the list of ingredients by its specific name. 

Foods containing more than 10 % added polyols authorised pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 must indicate ‘excessive consumption may produce laxative effects’.

Labelling requirement for foods containing certain food colours

Since the 20th July 2010, the labelling of prepackaged food and drink containing one or more of the food colours - sunset yellow (E 110), quinoline yellow (E 104), carmoisine (E 122), allura red (E 129), tartrazine (E 102) or ponceau 4R (E 124) are required to display the following warning message: 'Name or E number of the colour(s): may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.' 
           
This warning message applies to all prepackaged food and drink products, with the exception of foods where the colour(s) has been used for the purposes of health or other marking on meat products or for stamping or decorative colouring on eggshells. In addition alcoholic drinks containing alcohol above 1.2% by volume do not need to carry the warning.   The ‘warning’ statement for these six colours, often referred to as the ‘Southampton colours’, is included in Article 24 of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 on food additives.

 

Last reviewed: 4/8/2021

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