How much do you know about Food Labelling?

The penalties of getting food labels wrong are expensive. Products could be withdrawn or recalled. It may be possible to re-label depending on the product, but you may have to destroy a batch of food if it has a short shelf-life. If allergen labelling is wrong and a consumer suffers an allergic reaction the consequences could be fatal. Your reputation and your business are at stake.

Just for fun, we have set a few questions to test your knowledge of food labelling! The questions take into account the rules brought in by the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FIC) of 13th December 2011.

  1. What sorts of labels are considered acceptable?
  2. Does all the information have to go on every individual pack in a multipack?
  3. Can we use the old symbols for things like the heading for cooking instructions?
  4. What words have to be used for allergens?
allergens deliberately included must be declared
  1. When do we have to say "contains allergen x" as a separate statement?
  2. How should allergens be emphasised in the ingredients list?
  3. How do restaurant customers find out about allergens in a meal?
non-pre-packed foods now require allergen declarations
  1. Who is responsible for the labelling for mail order sales?
  2. Does the use by date have to be on the front?
  3. Is the date of freezing mandatory on frozen vegetables?
  4. Where a pack contains several individual packages of varying weight, does each package have to have its weight on it?
  5. In a nutrition statement the energy value must be given in kilojoules and kilocalories. Which figure must come first?
dates,ingredients lists and nutrition information on pre-packed foods
  1. After the energy statement is there a requirement for the salt, fat, carbohydrate etc contents to be in any special order?
  2. Can the nutrient declaration be per portion?
  3. Do things like the amounts of vitamins, minerals, starch, fibre have to be declared?
  4. Should the nutrient content be declared for a product "as sold" or "as prepared and ready to eat"?
  5. Can the energy value be repeated on the front of a pack?
  6. Could there be a statement about salt content when there is no sodium chloride in the product?
  7. Which three particulars (if present in a product) must appear in the same field of vision on a label?
  8. Which declaration did not become mandatory until 2016?

Ok, so how did you do?? There are a few obscure questions there!

Answers below

  1. What sorts of labels are considered acceptable?
    • In the case of pre-packed foods, mandatory food information shall appear directly on the package or on a label attached thereto. Label is defined as any tag, brand, mark, pictorial or other descriptive matter, written, printed, stencilled, marked, embossed or impressed on, or attached to the packaging or container of food. Labels [for the purposes of mandatory food information] must be easily visible, clearly legible and, where appropriate, indelible. They must not in any way be hidden, obscured, detracted from or interrupted by any other written or pictorial matter of any other intervening material. As such, they must not be easily removable.
  2. Does all the information have to go on every individual pack in a multipack?
    • No, provided the information is on the main pack then each individual packed item need not to be labelled as such. This does not apply to catering packs where the customer only sees the individual pack.
  3. Can we use the old symbols for things like the heading for cooking instructions?
    • No, it is not possible. Mandatory particulars such as the instructions for use must be indicated with words and numbers. The use of pictograms or symbols is only an additional means to express such particulars.
  4. What words have to be used for allergens?
    • None as the allergen has to be emphasised in the list of ingredients.
  5. When do we have to say "contains allergen x" as a separate statement?
    • When the product is exempt from having a list of ingredients and when the largest surface area of the pack is less than 10 sqcm
  6. How should allergens be emphasised in the ingredients list?
    • By means of the font, style or background colour.
  7. How do restaurant customers find out about allergens in a meal?
    • The information must be available and easily accessible. It is not enough to expect customers only and simply to ask. Therefore the information must be easily visible, clearly legible and, where appropriate, indelible. The UK position is that if there were a clear, visble notice saying the business has an allergen policy and names who to ask, (the named person must actually know and in his absence there should be someone else to ask - also named) this would satisfy the legislation. Alternatively, a clear notice listing dishes and the allergens they contain, labels on the dishes or allergen information for each dish, on the menu would all be acceptable.
  8. Who is responsible for the labelling for mail order sales?
    • The responsibility for providing mandatory food information before the purchase is concluded lies with the owner of the website/catalogue or other advertising medium. The FBO who is selling the food is responsible for the accuracy of what customers see before purchase.
  9. Does the use by date have to be on the front?
    • No, but there must be an indication as to where the date is given.
  10. Is the date of freezing mandatory on frozen vegetables?
    • No. The date of freezing is mandatory only on the labelling of prepacked frozen meat, frozen meat preparations and frozen unprocessed fishery products.
  11. Where a pack contains several individual packages of varying weight, does each package have to have its weight on it?
    • Prepacked foods which consist of two or more individual packages which are not regarded as units of sale [and which do not contain the same quantity of the same product], shall indicate the total number of these individual packages additionally to the net quantity of whole package. You can use an average quantity.
  12. In a nutrition statement the energy value must be given in kilojoules and kilocalories. Which figure must come first?
    • The value in kilojoules shall be given first, followed by the value in kilocalories.
  13. After the energy statement is there a requirement for the salt, fat, carbohydrate etc contents to be in any special order?
    • Yes, it must be fat, (of which saturates), carbohydrates (of which sugars) protein, salt.
  14. Can the nutrient declaration be per portion?
    • The amount of a nutrient shall be given in grams (g) per 100g, per 100ml or in certain cases per portion/consumption unit of the product.
  15. Do things like the amounts of vitamins, minerals, starch, fibre have to be declared?
    • No, nutrition labelling can be complemented by one or more of mono-unsaturates, polyunsaturates, polyols, starch, fibre, vitamins and minerals. If a claim is made concerning any of these, the amount present in the product or a normal serving must be stated.
  16. Should the nutrient content be declared for a product "as sold" or "as prepared and ready to eat"?
    • The nutrition declaration is required for the food as sold, but, instead and where appropriate, it can be related to the food as prepared, provided sufficiently detailed preparation instructions are given. It is therefore possible to only include the nutrition information 'as prepared' for consumption on foods like, for example, dehydrated powdered soup.
  17. Can the energy value be repeated on the front of a pack?
    • It must be on the front of a pack. It is repeated when there is a nutrition statement elsewhere on the pack.
  18. Could there be a statement about salt content when there is no sodium chloride in the product?
    • Yes, there may be other sodium compounds (like ascorbate). The total sodium content must be declared as salt using the formula salt=sodium x 2.5.
  19. Which three particulars (if present in a product) must appear in the same field of vision on a label?
    • Food name, quantity and alcohol content
  20. Which declaration is not mandatory until December 2016?
    • Declaration of nutrition is not mandatory on pre-packed food and drink until 13th December 2016 to allow food manufacturers time to prepare.

Back to top