The new EU Food Information Regulation 2011, published on 22 November 2011, will be directly applicable in all member states and replaces earlier EU Directives on labelling and nutrition labelling. The new requirements under the Regulation will mostly apply in 2014 with nutrition labelling mandatory on 13 December 2016. The Regulation requires:
- Tabular information on the label of pre-packed foods with information on energy content, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt in the product to be expressed per 100g/100ml and, where appropriate, per portion.
- Allergen information will be extended to loose foods with some flexibility how this is provided.
- The type or types of any vegetable oil used must be stated.
- High caffeine content drinks must state the caffeine content and be labelled as not recommended for children, pregnant and breast feeding women.
- Products previously frozen and defrosted for sale must state ‘defrosted’.
- Mandatory information must be displayed in a minimum font size of 1.2 mm for mandatory information and 0.9mm where the product packaging has a surface are less than 80 cm2.
The cost of compliance with the new rules on the nutrient content of food products will be a bigger burden for artisan and small food companies, many larger companies already have some nutrition labelling which may simply need to be adapted. There are, however, a number of exemptions from the mandatory nutrition declaration, which may relieve the burden for some artisan producers, these include:
- Unprocessed products that comprise a single ingriedient or category of ingriedients.
- Processed products that comprise a single ingriedient or category of ingriedients where the only process involved is that of maturing.
- A herb, spice or mixture of the same.
- Herbal and fruit infusions.
- Food in packaging where the largest surface area is less than 25 cm2.
- Food products supplied by the producer in small quanitities directly to the final consumer or to a local retailer supplying the final consumer.
Producers who voluntarily label their products with nutrition information after 13 December 2014, when the new regulation becomes applicable, and 13 December 2016, when the transition period for nutrition labelling ends, must comply with the new requirements even though the disclosure is voluntary. It may seem a long way off to 2016 but the pain of securing compliance will be felt less by early preparation.