The food information regulation: 10 things you need to know

The Food Information Regulation has finally been agreed. Published on 22 November 2011, it came into force on 13 December 2011, with most of the provisions applying from 13 December 2014, although mandatory nutrition labelling will not come in until two years later. The Regulation has been described as the most important and all-encompassing change to food labelling in the European Union for 30 years.

This Regulation, which applies throughout the EU, establishes the general principles, requirements and responsibilities governing food information, and in particular food labelling. It revokes the general labelling Directive (2000/13/EC) and the nutrition labelling Directive (90/46/EEC).

1. Nutrition labelling

The most far-reaching of the changes are those relating to nutrition labelling. 'Back of pack' nutrition labelling of pre–packed foods will be compulsory. The labelling of energy (in both kJ and kcal), fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt will all be mandatory; it will also be required to declare levels of any nutrients mentioned in claims. Certain other nutrients can be listed, but this is a defined and restricted list.

Voluntary 'front of pack' information will continue for energy, fat, saturates, sugar and salt, along with GDAs (Guideline Daily Amounts) per portion, but the use of 'traffic light' schemes will be restricted.

Mandatory nutrition information labelling will not be required for products containing more than 1.2% alcohol by volume. Such information may be given voluntarily, and can be limited to energy value only. A decision on whether energy value labelling should be compulsory may be made in the future (a report on this is due by the end of 2014).

Although the new nutrition labelling requirements do not become obligatory until 13 December 2016 (two years later than most of the other requirements), between 13 December 2014 and 13 December 2016 where nutrition declaration is provided on a voluntary basis it must comply with the mandatory provisions.

2. Country of origin labelling

Country of origin labelling will become compulsory for fresh and frozen meat of pork, sheep, goats and poultry and also for primary ingredients where the country of origin of the primary ingredient is not the same as the stated origin of the food.

These requirements will apply after the adoption of more detailed rules that will determine the way to express the information, including whether, for meat, separate information should be provided on the places of birth, rearing and slaughter. The more detailed rules are to be introduced within two years.

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