A planning guide for implementing FIC labelling changes

Having worked on the practical implementation of getting the requirements of FIC onto a physical label, I understand how difficult and daunting this task can seem. While a three year transition period might have seemed generous at the outset, here we are nearly two and a half years on and it is only fairly recently that we have seen converted products starting to appear. In my view this has in no small part been because of the difficulties companies have faced when trying to fully understand what is required of them and quite sensibly they have been waiting for certainty. But the clock hasn’t stopped ticking and at some point you simply have to get on with it, quite possibly with some issues still outstanding.

With the typical lag time from planning a label redesign to its appearance on the shelf being about six months, it is fair to say that the December 13th deadline for FIC changes is now looming large. Of course the size of the task is magnified when you consider that it is a matter of changing all labels, rather than just a select few, and for some the enormity of the task is now hitting home.

Having a good plan to meet the December 13th deadline is obviously key, and can ensure not only that the relabelling process is accomplished in time, but also with the minimum cost and risk of product recall. So what constitutes a good plan? In my experience, the following steps are essential and should be suitable as a blueprint for either checking your own plan or developing a new one.

1. Book the printers. Getting labels printed might seem to be one of the last stages in the process but there is likely to be a huge demand on printers’ time this year. Many tens of thousands of labels will be getting converted at about the same time and there is a real risk that there will be capacity issues as the year goes on. Giving them as much notice as possible of your plans will be essential to delivering the project.

2. Get the knowledge. You and your team will obviously need to be crystal clear as to how FIC regulations affect your product labels. This can be accomplished through reading, but also consider training courses and workshops. We are seeing an increased demand for in-house workshops where we cover FIC and any recent updates, and talk through issues specific to that business. We would be pleased to discuss how we can support you with training. Bear in mind that such training could benefit more than just your technical team, as there are others that would find it useful, such as marketing staff, designers, copywriters and reprographics staff.

3. Bring your labelling policies up to date. It might seem like mission impossible condensing forty-six pages of legislation down to a ‘one-pager’ but creating a simple ‘crib sheet’ will help visualise the changes that you need to put in place – you might consider constructing a ‘before’ and ‘after’ image of a label to help with this. This is also useful for internal communication with your teams, so that everyone understands the changes and can flag up any potential issues. With the minimum font size, space really will be the final frontier, particularly on small labels, so a pecking order of what voluntary information stays on should there be some spare space will help speed up reprographics work. Once you have updated your labelling policies it would be a good idea to get them checked and signed off. If you have a primary authority relationship with your local trading standards that would be a good starting point; we, of course, would also be pleased to assist.

Contact an expert