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A man and woman checking food label

European Union (EU) regulations making it mandatory for prepacked and non-prepacked foods to display certain information came into force in 2013. These rules, issued under Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 Article 9 (1) point (I), will become compulsory from December 13, 2016.

Prepacked foods will be required to display labels containing data relating to the amount of energy contained within the products, as well as information declaring the amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugars, proteins, and salt, contained within the product. In addition, the label will need to present data relating to any nutrient, or other substance, for which a nutrition or health claim has been made for the product.

Figures relating to amounts of nutrients must be expressed in grams (g) per 100g or per 100ml, and for energy values, the figures must be displayed in both kilojoules (kJ) and in kilocalories (kcal) per 100g or per 100ml of food. It is stipulated that the value in kilojoules must be given first, followed by the value for kilocalories. In both cases, the abbreviations – kJ and kcal – are acceptable.

This regulation also allows for additional information to be declared. For example, values relating to ‘per portion’ or ‘per consumption unit’ can also be applied, so long as the portion or consumption unit is easily recognizable by the consumer and the amounts are clearly quantified on the label and in close proximity to the nutrition declaration. Additionally, the number of portions or units contained in the package must also be stated on the label.

The energy value and the amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt may also be expressed as a percentage of the reference intakes specified in the following table per 100g or per 100ml. In addition to, or instead of, such a declaration per 100ml or per 100g, the percentages of the reference intakes can be expressed per portion or consumption unit.

Energy or Nutrient Reference Intake
Energy 8,400kj/2,000 kcal
Total Fat 70g
Saturates 20g
Carbohydrate 260g
Sugars 90g
Protein 50g
Salt 6g

In cases where the energy value or the amount of nutrient(s) in a product is negligible, the information on those elements may be replaced by a statement such as ‘Contains negligible amounts of …’ to be indicated in close proximity to the nutrition declaration. If space permits, the declaration shall be presented in the form of a table, with numbers aligned. A linear format may be used if there is insufficient space for a table. The declared values shall, according to the individual case, be average values based on:

  • Manufacturer’s analysis
  • Calculated from the known or average values of the ingredients
  • Calculated from generally established and accepted data

The mandatory nutrition declaration may also be supplemented with an indication of the amounts of one or more of the following:

  • Monounsaturates
  • Polyunsaturates
  • Polyols
  • Starch
  • Fiber
  • Any of the vitamins or minerals listed in point 1 of Part A of Annex XIII, and present in significant amounts as defined in point 2 of Part A of Annex XIII of EU Regulation 1169/2011

The nutrition declaration must be printed in a font size where the x-height of the characters is greater than, or equal to, 1.2mm. For smaller packaging, where the largest surface area is less than 80cm2, the x-height has to be a minimum of 0.9mm.

It should also be noted that a nutrition declaration in the format required by the US and Canada would not be in line with the EU requirements, as both mandatory and voluntary information have to comply with the rules laid down in the EU Regulation. Such labeling might also mislead the consumer because of the different conversion factors used in the US to calculate the energy value and the quantity of nutrients.

For non-prepacked foods, the content of the nutrition declaration is not mandatory, when food is sold to the final consumer or to mass caterers, unless member states have adopted other national measures. Otherwise, it can be limited to the energy value or the energy value together with the amounts of fat, saturates, sugars, and salt.

The nutrition declaration is required for the food as sold, but, instead and where appropriate, it can relate to the food as prepared, provided sufficiently detailed preparation instructions are given. It is therefore possible to include only the nutrition information 'as prepared' for consumption on foods, such as dehydrated powdered soup.

Exemptions

A number of products are exempt for the requirement for a mandatory nutrition declaration, as per ANNEX V of Regulation (EU) 1169/2011. These include:

  1. Unprocessed products that comprise a single ingredient or category of ingredients
  2. Processed products for which the only processing they have been subjected to is maturing and that comprise a single ingredient or category of ingredients
  3. Waters intended for human consumption, including those where the only added ingredients are carbon dioxide and/or flavorings
  4. Herbs, spices, or mixtures thereof
  5. Salt and salt substitutes
  6. Table top sweeteners
  7. Products covered by Directive 1999/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of February 22, 1999 relating to coffee extracts and chicory extracts, whole or milled coffee beans and whole or milled decaffeinated coffee beans
  8. Herbal and fruit infusions, tea, decaffeinated tea, instant or soluble tea or tea extract, decaffeinated instant or soluble tea or tea extract, which do not contain other added ingredients than flavorings which do not modify the nutritional value of the tea
  9. Fermented vinegars and substitutes for vinegar, including those where the only added ingredients are flavoring
  10. Flavorings
  11. Food additives
  12. Processing aids
  13. Food enzymes
  14. Gelatin
  15. Jam setting compounds
  16. Yeast
  17. Chewing-gums
  18. Food in packaging or containers the largest surface of which has an area of less than 25 cm2
  19. Food, including handcrafted food, directly supplied by the manufacturer of small quantities of products to the final consumer or to local retail establishments directly supplying the final consumer

The rules do not apply to the following foods, which have their own nutrition labeling rules:

  • Food supplements
  • Natural mineral waters
  • Foods for particular nutritional uses, unless there are no specific rules relating to particular aspects of nutrition labeling

The new mandatory nutrition declaration will come into effect on December 13, 2016. Products which have been placed on the market, or have been labeled, prior to December 13, 2016, but which do not comply with point (l) of Article 9(1) of the Regulation (EU) 1169/2011, may be marketed until the stocks of the foods are exhausted.

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For further information, please contact:

Alexandra Dedeilia
Food Business Manager
t: +30 210 572 0777