Mandatory nutritional particulars on food packaging
The European Food Information to Consumers Regulation has, of course, been in place for a while now, since 2011, when it was decided that all food and drinks packaging should mandatorily contain nutritional particulars. The relevant companies have had just over five years to prepare for the new requirements. On 13 December these rules finally became binding.
In addition to ingredients, manufacturer’s details and warnings of possible allergic reactions, consumers can now also find certain quantitative values – known as “Big 7” – on food packaging:
Energy (calorific value in kcal or kJ)
Saturated fatty acids
Over and above these details, it is up to manufacturers to add further information if they wish to do so. This may include values such as unsaturated fatty acids, polyhydric alcohols, starch, fibres, vitamins and minerals. All values must be specified as proportions of 100 g or 100 ml. Unlike in the United States, details per serving are not normally provided on packaging. However, if this is done, the size of the serving, too, must be specified clearly. If the composition is simple, involving only a small number of common ingredients, then the relevant nutritional values can easily be identified by the manufacturers themselves, using specific websites.
Exceptions There’s no rule without exceptions. The regulation does not cover small traders who make their own regional specialities and deliver them directly to end customers or retailers within a 100-km radius, and the regulation also exempts online traders with only one member of staff and an annual turnover of less than EUR 2 million. Furthermore, exemptions are permitted for small quantities of packaged food and for unpackaged products made by small food businesses, for instance, bread rolls or fresh meat. However, whenever food is sold ready-packaged, such companies, too, must observe the new regulations.
United States In the United States the question of mandatory and voluntary particulars on food packaging is decided by the Food and Drug Administration, which specifies that volumes must be declared for certain minerals, vitamins, etc. Each value must be stated in relation to recommended daily serving sizes, based on analyses conducted by official agencies. From 26 July 2018 onwards manufacturers with more than $10 million turnover per year will be subject to even stricter regulations. By making details of ingredients and effects per serving more intelligible, it is hoped that consumers feel encouraged to lead a generally healthier lifestyle. One totally new feature is the requirement of additional details for children up to 4 and for pregnant women.
United Kingdom Label manufacturers in the UK must ensure that labels are easy to understand and hard to remove. Here, too, from December onwards, basic details of ingredients and allergens have now been replaced by the new EU regulation which stipulates the above-mentioned nutritional particulars. These details on the packaging must be framed in a box. Exemptions are permitted for unpackaged food, meals prepared by catering companies and wines. Again, the meat industry is subject to special provisions, with mandatory proportions of fat and tissue as soon as the new law enters into force.