A partial review of Regulation No. 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and the Council of 25 Oct. 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers effective since 13 Dec. 2014
Europe has gone a long way towards law alignment in the field of labeling food designed for the ultimate consumer. The diverse, and in most cases even controversial law, operating in the Member States brought difficulties for business and consumers considering increasingly higher globalization and striving for Europe without borders. As a matter of fact, food producers in any Member State coming into the market of another Member State had to make material changes in their packaging and/or products due to the differences in the law of the separate countries. This in turn caused damages to recognizable brands (product outer appearance) and extra costs for the business related to the need for research and changes in the content and packaging of food products. So a company selling a food supplement – multivitamins in the market of a given Member State, when it entered the market of another Member State had to comply with the differences in the admissible quantities of vitamins (upper and lower limits), permitted additives, requirements for font, shelf life and other essential items in the food content and packaging. These differences in their entirety led to presentation of a completely different food product sometimes in the new market – by properties, qualities and physical presentation.
The reasons for law alignment in the field of food are mainly related to guaranteeing the consumer’s interest. Business interest is not less important with a view of striving for encouraging the EU economy, interests of internal market in simplification of law, ensuring legal security and diminishing the administrative burden. The big change came by adoption of Regulation No. 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and the Council of 25 Oct. 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (“the Regulation”) effective since 13 Dec. 2014. Some of the new highlights of the Regulation, important for product label preparation, are as follows:
Expressions like ‘content’, ‘contains’, ‘consists of’, ‘made of’ are left in the history. The law solution is ‘ingredients’ – simple and mandatory. This is the word that should precede the list of the food product content in the label description.
All ingredients must be enlisted in a descending order depending on their weight at the time of food production.
An exception to the rule on mandatory list of ingredients applies to some products, such as: fresh fruit and vegetables, carbonated water, with special designation of carbonation, fermented vinegar obtained from one basic product, food consisting of one ingredient only – under certain conditions, etc.
Incorrect designation of ingredients and violation of the rules on stating thereof are among the most common reasons for sanctioning food products from different groups by the authorities of the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency (BFSA).
- Labeling of certain substances or products causing allergies or intolerance
A vital innovation inspired by the care for consumer safety and health is the requirement to indicate the substances that cause allergies or intolerance. The requirement to indicate the ingredients – allergens existed in the past, too, on a general basis – not to mislead the consumer, but adoption of the Regulation raised it to a new level. The main aspects:
- Indication of the substances with especially designated names: eggs, peanuts, soya, soya products, milk and milk products, fish, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, celery and a lot of others. You can find complete information about allergens in Annex II to the Regulation.
- Distinguishing the substances – through font, style and background colour. At this stage, most producers use a larger font for the allergen and emphasizing it as bold/ italic. So for example, if you market the food product risotto with mussels, then allergens can be indicated most conventionally as white rice, MUSSELS, carrots, onion…..
- Label Legibility
Mandatory food details are printed on packaging or label in a way so as to ensure clear legibility with font size where the letter height is larger or equal to 1.2 mm. An exception to this requirement is small packaging whose largest surface is less than 80 sq. m. – here the letter height is larger or equal to 0.9 mm.
To achieve the best legibility and unification food name and its net weight must be placed in the same sight field.
All mandatory label details should be indicated in a visible place and easily seen, legible, and, if necessary, non-erasable. Information should not be hidden in any way, blurred, cut or interrupted from any text or images or other materials.
This article is not intended to enlist the key points in making packaging for food, but to give guidelines and pay attention to the most misleading points for food business.
In my next article I will give specific recommendations and guidelines in the registration of retail facilities.
Ginka Dimitrova, Attorney-at-law
Petya Noycheva & Partners