Food industry has three years to ensure a smooth transition towards the new labelling regime

Food ravioli tin

As of 13 December 2014, new EU food labelling rules will ensure that consumers receive clearer, more comprehensive and accurate information on food content. The current legislation on general food labelling dates back to 1978 and nutrition labelling rules were adopted in 1990. However, consumer demands and marketing practices have evolved significantly since then and new rules were therefore deemed necessary as EU consumers want better information when purchasing foods.

Key changes to labeliing rules:

  • improved legibility of information (minimum font size for mandatory information);
  • clearer and harmonised presentation of allergens (for example, soy, nuts, gluten, lactose) for prepacked foods (emphasis by font, style or background colour) in the list of ingredients;
  • mandatory allergen information for non-prepacked food, including in restaurants and cafes;
  • requirement of certain nutrition information for majority of prepacked processed foods;
  • mandatory origin information for fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry;
  • same labelling requirements for online, distance-selling or buying in a shop;
  • list of engineered nanomaterials in the ingredients.
  • specific information on the vegetable origin of refined oils and fats;
  • strengthened rules to prevent misleading practices;
  • indication of substitute ingredient for ‘Imitation’ foods;
  • clear indication of “formed meat” or “formed fish”; and
  • clear indication of defrosted products.

However, rules relating to mandatory nutritional labelling for processed food will apply only from 13 December 2016.

Food business operators have been given three years to ensure a smooth transition towards the new labelling regime for prepacked and non-prepacked foods. In addition, the regulation provides for exhaustion of stocks for foods placed on the market or labelled before 13 December.

Work is also underway on developing an EU database to facilitate the identification of all EU and national mandatory labelling rules in a simple way. This will offer a tool for all food business operators and for SMEs to consult. The work for the creation of the database should be carried out in 2015.