Nutrition labelling

Nutrition labelling is harmonised throughout the European Union. It is optional, but becomes compulsory if a nutrition claim appears on the label or in advertising.

Council Directive 90/496/EEC of 24 September 1990 on nutrition labelling rules of foodstuffs [See amending act(s)].

This Directive concerns nutrition labelling of foodstuffs for the final consumer and for mass caterers (restaurants, hospitals, canteens, etc.).

The Directive does not apply to natural mineral waters or other waters intended for human consumption, or food supplements.


Nutrition labelling is optional, but becomes compulsory if a nutrition claim is made on the label, in a presentation or in advertising.

Only nutrition claims are allowed which relate to the energy value, the nutrients referred to in the Annex to the Directive (proteins, carbohydrates, fat, dietary fibres, sodium, vitamins and minerals) or to substances which belong to one of the categories of these nutrients or which are components of them.

The information in nutrition labelling comes under group 1 or group 2, as indicated below:

  • Group 1:
    • the energy value, and
    • the amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat,
  • Group 2:
    • the energy value
    • the amount of protein, carbohydrate, sugar, fat, saturated fatty acids, dietary fibre and sodium.

Where the nutrition claim refers to sugars, saturated fatty acids, dietary fibres or sodium, group 2 information must be provided.

The declared energy value and amount of nutrients must be given in figures using specific units of measurement. The information must be expressed per 100g or per 100ml. They can also be expressed per package or per portion. Information on vitamins and minerals must, in addition, be expressed as a percentage of the recommended daily allowance (RDA), which may also be given in graphic form.


Nutrition labelling may also include the quantities of amidone, polyols, monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, cholesterol and the mineral salts and vitamins specified in the Annex.

All of the above information must be grouped together in a clearly visible place and must be in legible, indelible characters and in a language easily understood by the purchaser. Member States may not introduce nutrition labelling specifications that are more detailed than those contained in this Directive.

With regard to foodstuffs which are not pre-packaged when sold to the final consumer and mass caterers and foodstuffs which are packaged at the places of immediate sale, the scope of the information in food labelling and the manner in which it is provided may be laid down in national provisions until Community measures are possibly adopted in accordance with the procedure provided for in this Directive.


The Commission is assisted by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

Key terms
·         Nutrition labelling: any information appearing on labelling and relating to the energy value or the following nutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, fat, dietary fibres, sodium, vitamins and minerals.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 90/496/EEC 1.10.1990 OJ L 276 of 6.10.1990


Amending Act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2003/120/EC 9.1.2004 31.7.2004 OJ L 333 of 20.12.2003
Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003 20.11.2003 OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003
Directive 2008/100/EC 18.11.2008 31.10.2009 OJ L 285 of 29.10.2008
Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008 11.12.2008 OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008

Nutrition and health claims

Nutrition and health claims shall soon be harmonised at European level in order to better protect consumers. This Regulation establishes the authorisation procedures required to ensure that claims on food labelling, presentation and advertising are clear, concise and based on evidence accepted by the whole scientific community.

Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods [See amending acts].

Nutrition and health claims * of the type “WITH NO ADDED SUGAR”, “FAT-FREE” and “LIGHT/LITE”, etc. are harmonised at European level in order to guarantee the functioning of the internal market, whilst ensuring a high level of consumer protection.


This Regulation applies to all nutrition and health claims including:

  • commercial communications (labelling, presentation and promotional campaigns);
  • trade marks and other brand names which may be construed as nutrition or health claims.

It applies to claims relating to all types of food intended for final consumers, including foods intended for supply to hospitals, canteens etc.

The Regulation does not apply to claims relating to the adverse effects of a product.

Consumer protection

The legislation on nutrition and health claims protects consumers by prohibiting any information which:

  • is false, difficult to understand or misleading (e.g. which attributes medicinal properties to food wrongly or without scientific evidence);
  • casts doubt on the safety or nutritional adequacy of other foods;
  • encourages or condones excessive consumption of a food;
  • encourages consumption of a food by stating or suggesting directly or indirectly that a balanced diet does not provide all the nutrients * that are needed;
  • attempts to scare consumers by mentioning changes in bodily functions.

This Regulation supplements Directive 2000/13/EC relating to food labelling and Directive 2006/114/EC on misleading and comparative advertising which could mislead the consumer.

General conditions of use

Nutritional and health claims must meet the following conditions:

  • the presence, absence or reduced content of a nutrient or other substance in respect of which the claim is made must have a beneficial nutritional or physiological effect, and be scientifically proven;
  • the nutrient or substance in respect of which the claim is made is present in significant quantities in order to produce the nutritional or physiological effect claimed. Its absence or presence in a reduced quantity should also produce the expected nutritional or physiological effect;
  • the nutrient or substance in respect of which the claim is made is in an immediately consumable form;
  • the specific conditions of use must be complied with, for example, the active substance (e.g. vitamins, fibres, etc.) must be present in sufficient quantity in the food to have beneficial effects. Furthermore, if it is claimed that a food is energy-reduced, the energy value must be reduced by at least 30% of the total energy content of the food (25% in the case of salt).

Nutritional and health claims relating to beverages containing more than 1.2% of alcohol by volume are prohibited, with the exception of those which refer to a reduction in the alcohol or energy content of an alcoholic beverage.

Specific conditions of use

Only the nutritional claims listed in the Annex to this Regulation are authorised. Comparative nutritional claims are possible for foods in the same category whose composition does not allow a claim. They must relate to an identical quantity of food and indicate the difference in the nutrient content and/or energy value.

Health claims are subject to specific requirements. The labelling, presentation and publicity related to them must provide certain obligatory information:

  • a statement indicating the importance of a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle;
  • the quantity of the food and pattern of consumption which will ensure the claimed beneficial effect;
  • a statement addressed to persons who should avoid the substance concerned;
  • a warning of the health risks caused by excessive consumption.

The Regulation prohibits health claims which refer to the rate or amount of weight loss or suggest it is detrimental to health not to consume a certain type of food, references to an individual doctor or health professional or to associations other than national medical associations and health-related charities, and claims which suggest that health could be affected by not consuming the food.

However, by way of derogation from Directive 2000/13/EC on labelling (which prohibits any reference to properties for the prevention, treatment or cure of a human disease), the Regulation authorises claims concerning the reduction of the risk of a disease, provided that an application for authorisation has been approved.

Application for authorisation

To obtain authorisation for a new claim or amend the existing list, the manufacturer must submit an application to the Member State concerned, which will forward it to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The Commission then makes a decision on the use of the claim on the basis of the EFSA’s opinion.

Key terms used in the act
·         “Claim”: any message or representation, which is not mandatory under Community or national legislation, including pictorial, graphic or symbolic representation, in any form, which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular characteristics;

·         “Nutrition claim”: any claim which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular beneficial nutritional properties;

·         “Health claim”: any claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health;

·         “Nutrients”: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fibres, sodium, vitamins and minerals listed in the Annex to Directive 90/496/EEC, and substances which belong to or are components of one of those categories.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 19.1.2007 1.7.2007 OJ L 404 of 30.12.2006


Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 107/2008 4.3.2008 OJ L 39 of 13.2.2008
Regulation (EC) No 109/2008 4.3.2008 OJ L 39 of 13.2.2008

The successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 have been incorporated into the original text.


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