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More consumer protection, more consumer information, but many unsolved issues as well
Things will get serious on 13 December 2014: Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC), which came into force in December 2011, will become applicable. From that date the general food labelling rules will be regulated on a European level – this also includes distance selling.
The aim of the FIC Regulation is to provide suitable, appropriate and useful information on a food product in a transparent way so that the consumer can make an informed choice.
The Regulation simplifies the European legislation because it combines many national regulations and guidelines. At the same time, the Regulation imposes higher requirements on food business operators.
Obligatory product information on food labels must be easily visible, clearly legible and printed in a minimum font size. For certain ingredients, the country of origin must be stated. New is the obligation to label food imitation products, reconstituted meat and nanomaterial used in the food product. Furthermore, frozen food products must carry the date of freezing. The list of ingredients must also highlight all allergens, e.g. in bold.
According to the FIC Regulation, each food package must carry a nutritional declaration. The so-called BIG7 ingredients must be presented in the following order: energy, fat, of which saturates, carbohydrates, of which sugars, protein, salt. If space permits, the declaration shall be presented in the form of a table.
The mandatory nutrition declaration may be supplemented by an indication of one or more of the following: mono-unsaturates, polyunsaturates, polyols, starch, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Here again, attention must be paid to the order. This is all that is allowed in the table.
Providing nutritional information is voluntary until it becomes mandatory on 13 December 2016. However, if nutrients are labelled, after 13 December 2013, their declaration must comply with the FIC.
As always, the devil is in the details. Not all implementing provisions have been issued yet; there are still uncertainties regarding certain topics (labelling of trans-fatty acids, alternative representation of nutritional information, some details regarding the statement on the country of origin/of certain raw materials).
To make the transition easier for its customers, the health food unit of Uelzena eG has already consulted food law specialists from its network and can now offer its customers the new labelling of their products in several languages. Due to its membership of specialist associations (e.g. German Dietetic Food Industry Association and Association of the German Dairy Industry), research institutes and regional associations, Uelzena eG is also familiar with the regulation details currently being discussed but not yet adopted.
For more information on FIC, please contact:
Food Law & Specifications Officer
T: +49 581 806 7176
T: +49 (0)581 806-6166