Labelling food products in the UK

Food Labelling Regulations

The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 (as amended) require that most pre-packed foods carry:

  • a name
  • a list of ingredients
  • allergen information – see the page in this guide onfood allergen management and advisory labelling
  • the amount of certain ingredients used
  • a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date
  • any special storage conditions or conditions of use
  • the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or European Community (EC) seller
  • instructions for use
  • the place of origin of the food, if failure to give it might mislead
  • nutrition labelling – see the page in this guide onnutrition labelling which explains the conditions under which nutrition labelling must be provided

‘Pre-packed’ means any food you package before you put it on sale when all of the following apply:

  • the food is either fully or partly enclosed by the packaging
  • the food cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging
  • the product is ready for sale to the public or to a catering establishment

Foods that are sold loose do not need to be labelled. For example, if you sell unpackaged cakes you don’t need to label them. However, if any of the ingredients had been irradiated or genetically modified you would need to make this clear.

Nutrition labelling

In the UK, the provision of nutrition information on food labels is voluntary unless one or more of the following applies:

  • a nutrition claim such as ‘low in fat’ is made
  • a health claim such as ‘calcium helps build strong bones and teeth’ is made
  • vitamins or minerals have been voluntarily added to a food

The way in which nutrition information should be presented is defined in the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 (as amended).

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has produced guidance notes to help food business operators comply with nutrition labelling legislation.

Traffic light labelling

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends that voluntary front of pack nutrition signposting systems should be based on the following four core principles:

  • provision of information for fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt
  • use of red, amber and green colour coding to indicate at a glance whether the level of individual nutrients is high, medium or low
  • information on the level of each nutrient present in a portion of the product
  • use of nutritional criteria developed by the FSA

The FSA recommends that signposting is applied to certain processed foods because consumers have the most difficulty in assessing their nutritional quality. The FSA does however recognise that front of pack signposting may be useful on some other foods.




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