There is labelling legislation applicable across the European Union on pre-packaged foodstuffs intended for sale to consumers or catering industries. Labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs must be clear, must not be misleading to a material degree, must be unambiguous. It must not attribute qualities to foodstuff such as prevention or cure of human illness.
Labelling refers to any words, brands, trademarks, symbols etc relating to foodstuffs placed on packaging, notices, labelling, symbols relating to foodstuff and placed on packaging, documents, rings, accompanying or referring to the foodstuffs. Food products sold in Ireland with labelling in English. Labelling in Irish or other languages in addition to English is permissible.
The label must contain essential information including the following;
- name of product,
- list of ingredients,
- quantity of ingredients,
- net quantity,
- date of minimum durability,
- storage instructions
- conditions of use,
- name and address of the manufacturer, packager, or sender within the EU,
- place of origin.
- if its absence could mislead the consumer to a material extent, instructions for use.
Alcohol must contain alcoholic strength details.
There are certain exceptions to the above requirements for particular foodstuffs. In addition, directives on foodstuffs provide for a spectrum of additional specific information that is required over and above the general requirements. Foodstuffs containing liquorice, sweetener, sugar and certain other elements must contain additional wording so confirming and complying with other requirements.
Directives require that certain allergens be disclosed. There are a list of substances, which must be specifically disclosed on the label where they are present in food products;
- Glutens in cereal
- Certain fish products
- Certain soy beans
- Certain milk products
- Certain nuts
There are others.
Ingredients in the above list used in production and present in the finished product, even in an altered form, must be labelled.
Products containing meat as an ingredient must conform with the minimum definition for meat. Meat labelling requirements apply to products which contain meat as an ingredient whether pre-packaged or not. They do not apply to meat sold without further processing such as cuts.There are additional meat labelling regulations which apply separately.
There are labelling requirements which require the presence of quinine, caffeine, disclosed together with a warning message, which is dependent on the extent of content.
The quantitive ingredient declaration requires the percentage of ingredients used in manufacture, preparation, indicated on certain foodstuffs. Percentages of quantity should be in the list of ingredients. These requirements apply to all food and beverages with more than one ingredient. Certain exemptions apply.
There are requirements to set out the alcoholic strength of alcoholic beverages. Certain tolerances are allowed.
A nutritional claim is one involving a representation or advertising which implies or states that a foodstuff has particular properties due to
- energy it does or does not provide, or
- nutrients it does or does not contain.
This may be reduced fat, high fibre, less than a certain amount of calories.
The nutritional claims that may be made are limited to certain claims including energy value, nutrients, proteins, fat, fibre, carbohydrates, sodium, vitamins and minerals.
Nutritional labelling must comply with certain requirements that is applicable to food supplied to the final consumer, restaurants, canteens and similar catering organisations.
There is a general prohibition on making misleading medical claims in relation to food. There are specific requirements in relation to nutrition and health claims.
Where a claim is made for a substance, it must be shown to have a beneficial nutritional or physiological effect. The relevant substance must be present in sufficient quantities in order to have this effect. It must be available for use for the body and be in such quantities that are reasonably expected to be consumed.
A nutritional or health claim may not be made if it is contrary to general nutrition and health principles, or encourages or condones excessive consumption of food, or disparages good dietary practice.
A list of permitted nutrition claims and their conditions of use are specified in legislation. There is an EU register of nutrition and health claims, containing details of claims, restrictions and conditions and health claims which are not permitted.
There are special provisions in relation to claims in relation to childhood development and health, and the risk of diseases. They must be authorized in accordance with a particular procedure. Once authorized they are included in the community list of permitted claims together with conditions of use.
A medicinal claim is a claim which states or implies that a product has the property of treating, preventing or curing human disease. A medicinal claim may only be made in respect of a medicine so classified.
Medicines must be licensed by the Irish Medicines Board, now the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA)and are subject to detailed control in respect to their content , sale and marketing. Product authorization is required.
The Health Products Regulatory Authority regulates the importation, sale and distribution of medicinal products for human use, as well as veterinary products.
Fortified foods are foods to which nutrients such as vitamins and minerals have been added. There are special labelling and presentation and advertising requirements for foods which have been fortified. Certain claims are restricted. There are nutritional labelling requirements. They must not mislead the consumer as to nutritional merit.
There are some special requirements with respect to food supplements. They must set out certain information including; details of nutrients or substances that characterize the product, the proportion of daily recommended consumption, warning not to exceed the same, statement to the effect that food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied diet and storage out of reach of young children.
Producers, manufacturers and packagers or the first retailer for the European Union must provide reference to the manufacture lot or batch to which the foodstuff belongs on the packaging, container or label of most foodstuffs. The purpose is to facilitate control of withdrawal in the event of an identified problem.
There are requirements for the size of pre-packaged codes and notices on labels which are to appear. This covers food and non food products, certain non food products including coffee, oil, milk, frozen vegetables, wines and spirits.
Goods must not be packaged, imported or sold unless they comply with provisions in relation to package size and marking. Certain products must be labelled with an indication of net content in units of weight, volume and length.
The markings on the packet, inscriptions, units of weight and volume to be used are prescribed. Certain tolerances may be allowed for batches, provided the average status is maintained.
See the section on intellectual property. Groups of producers may register ia geographical designation of origin n respect to agricultural products and foodstuffs emanating from a region. Foodstuffs must exhibit special characteristics in cases where the name is geographical from a specific area and other cases from with traditional composition or method of production.
There are the following types of protection for food names exist;
- Protected designation of origin
- Protected geographic indication
- Traditional speciality guaranteed
The latter category refers to a traditional product or foodstuff recognised for its special character under EU legislation. There must be proven usage in the EU for prolonged periods of at least 25 years.
There is a particular quality logo, which includes the EU stars, which is used on such protected products as a mark of authenticity. They may manufacture within a particular area or use a particular production method.
Any material or article which may come in contact with food, must not be such as to allow transmission of substances to food which may endanger health or change the composition of the food. There are directives in relation to material and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs.
Such materials and articles must be manufactured in accordance with good manufacturing practice so that under normal and foreseeable conditions of use they do not transfer their constituents to food in quantities which could endanger health, bring about an unacceptable change in the composition of food, or bring about a deterioration in the characteristics thereof.
There are special labelling requirements for such materials where they are not yet in contact with food. They must set out specific indications as to their use. Special instructions for safe and appropriate use may be required. Details of the manufacturer, seller in the EU etc is required. There must be adequate labelling or identification to ensure traceability.
Where there are active materials and articles, the information on the permitted use and other relevant information such as name and quantity of relevant substances released by the active component must be set out to allow the distance operator to comply with their obligations.
There are specific directives in relation to plastic materials intended to come into contact with foodstuffs. Only certain types of substances may be used in the manufacture of the plastic. There are rules in relation to testing of the migration of constituent elements of the material.
There are special requirements for recycled plastic materials and articles to be used in in contact with food. Recycling processes must comply with certain conditions in order to be authorized. A recycling process is subject to a safety assessment and must apply for approval.
There are specific provisions in relation to so-called cling-film type products.
There are special requirements with respect to rubber teats and soothers. These are regulated in respect to the release of certain substances from the rubber.
Certain materials must be accompanied by written declarations and documentations showing compliance. These are available for inspection by the authorities.
There are general principles in relation to the manufacture process for use in relation to such products. There are requirements in relation to the import, and labelling requirements.