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Food labelling and packaging guidelines - FSA - UK ( United Kingdom)

Updated: Jul 10, 2023


Myperfectpack Food Labelling and Packaging guidelines - FSA -UK (United Kingdom)

Food labelling and packaging guidelines - FSA - UK ( United Kingdom): Myperfectpack share guidance which tells you the information you must provide with food products, so you comply with the rules on food information to consumers.

These rules apply to you if you operate a food business, even if you give food to consumers for free. You do not need to give food information to customers if you’re not a food business and you’re providing food for an occasional event, like a village fair.

To sell food and drink products, the label must be:

  • clear and easy to read

  • permanent

  • easy to understand

  • easily visible

  • not misleading

You must show certain basic information and list the ingredients. You might also have to show certain warnings.

There are special regulations for labelling wine.


Responsibilities

The business under whose name the food is marketed is primarily responsible for the food information unless that business is not established in the EU, in which case the first importer into the EU has the responsibility. However, even businesses that don't affect the information shouldn't supply food where they suspect the information is non-compliant.

Any changes made to the food information must not mislead or reduce consumer protection. They are the responsibility of the business to make the changes.


Businesses that supply ingredients or consumer-ready loose food to other businesses must provide enough information for the recipients to meet the eventual obligations to caterers and consumers. When consumer-ready prepacked food is not marketed directly to the consumer, the required food information can be provided in commercial documents. However, the legal name of the food, the durability date, the storage/usage conditions and the business name and address must also appear on the external packaging of the prepacked assssssssssssssfoods. This also applies when prepacked food is intended for caterers to use in dish preparation.



Packaging (Food labelling and packaging guidelines - FSA - UK (United Kingdom))

If you package food yourself, you must use packaging that’s suitable for food use. Suitable packaging is marked ‘for food contact’ or has a symbol on it that looks like a wine glass and a fork.

There are special rules for using plastics, ceramics or cellophane for packaging. You must have written evidence that you’ve kept to them.

This is known as a ‘declaration of compliance’ and you can get it from your packaging supplier. You also have to get one if you buy food that’s already packaged for sale in any of those materials.



Food labelling - what you must show

You must show the following information

  • the name of the food

  • a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date

  • any necessary warnings

  • net quantity information

  • a list of ingredients (if there is more than 1)

  • the country or place of origin, if required

  • the lot number or use-by date

  • any special storage conditions

  • instructions for use or cooking, if necessary

If you’re selling food in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), you must also include the name and address of the UK or EU business responsible for the information on the food. If the business is not in the UK or EU, you must include the name and address of the importer. If you’re selling food in Northern Ireland, you must include the name and address of the Northern Irish or EU business responsible for the information on the food. If the business is not in Northern Ireland or the EU, you must include the name and address of the importer.



Quantity information

You must put the net quantity in grams, kilograms, millilitres or litres on the label of:

  • packaged food over 5g or 5ml

  • packaged herbs and spices

Solid foods packed in a liquid (or an ice glaze) must show the drained net weight.

The net quantity must be close enough to the name of the food that you can see all this information at the same time. This also applies to the alcoholic strength for alcoholic drinks.

You do not have to show the weight or volume on foods sold by number, for example 2 bread rolls, provided that you can clearly see the number of items inside the packaging.



Information you may have to show

You must also show these if they apply to your product:

  • a warning for drinks with an alcohol content above 1.2%

  • a warning if the product contains GM ingredients, unless their presence is accidental and 0.9% or less

  • a warning if the product has been irradiated

  • the words ‘packaged in a protective atmosphere’ if the food is packaged using a packaging gas



Country or place of origin

You must show the country or place of origin for:

  • beef, veal, lamb, mutton, pork, goat and poultry

  • fish and shellfish

  • honey

  • olive oil

  • wine

  • fruit and vegetables

You must also show the country of origin if customers might be misled without this information, for example if the label for a pizza shows the leaning tower of Pisa but the pizza is made in the UK.

If the primary ingredient in the food comes from somewhere different from where the product says it was made, the label must show this. For example, a pork pie labelled ‘British’ that’s produced in the UK with pork from Denmark, must state ‘with pork from Denmark’ or ‘made with pork from outside the UK’.



Special rules for some products

There are special rules about what you have to show on the label if you supply any of the following:

  • bottled water

  • bread and flour

  • cocoa and chocolate products

  • fats and oils

  • fish

  • fruit juices and nectars

  • honey

  • jams and preserves

  • meat and meat products

  • milk and milk products

  • soluble coffee

  • sugar


Ingredients list

If your food or drink product has 2 or more ingredients (including any additives), you must list them all. Ingredients must be listed in order of weight, with the main ingredient first. Ingredient quantities You also have to show the percentage of an ingredient if it is:

  • highlighted by the labelling or a picture on a package, for example ‘extra cheese’

  • mentioned in the name of the product, for example ‘cheese and onion pasty’

  • normally connected with the name by the consumer, for example fruit in a summer pudding



Allergens

You must highlight allergens on the label using a different font, style or background colour. You must also list them in the ingredients.

The allergens you need to highlight and list are:

  • celery

  • cereals containing gluten - including wheat, rye, barley and oats

  • crustaceans - including prawns, crab and lobster

  • eggs

  • fish

  • lupin

  • milk

  • molluscs - including squid, mussels, cockles, whelks and snails

  • mustard

  • nuts

  • peanuts

  • sesame seeds

  • soya beans

  • sulphur dioxide or sulphites at levels above 10mg per kilogram or per litre



Nutrition, health claims and supplement labelling

Nutrition labelling You must follow nutrition labelling information rules for all pre-packed products unless both of the following apply:

  • you’re a small business with under 10 employees and a turnover of less than £1.4 million

  • you supply either direct to consumers or to local retailers - local means within your county, your neighbouring county, or up to 30 miles from your county boundary

Nutrition and health claims You have to follow certain rules if you want to make a nutrition claim (for example, low fat) or a health claim (for example, calcium helps maintain normal bones). You cannot claim or imply that food can treat, prevent or cure any disease or medical condition. Food supplements, fortified foods and foods for specific nutritional uses You must follow certain rules if you are manufacturing, selling or importing:

  • a food supplement

  • a food fortified with vitamins and minerals

There are also specific rules for ‘parnuts foods’, for example:

  • formula milk for infants and young children

  • baby food

  • meal and total diet replacement for weight control

  • medical foods

Organic food

If you’re a retailer, you can label products ‘organic’ as long as:

  • at least 95% of the farm-grown ingredients are organic

  • you sell direct to customers in your shop

Organic certification You must be certified by one of the organic control bodies if you produce or prepare organic food and you want to sell or label it as organic. You can decide which body to register with based on your location and needs. Once registered you’ll have to:

  • follow a strict set of guidelines laid down by national and international law

  • keep thorough and accurate records of production processes

  • allow annual and random inspections



Bottled water

There are 3 types of bottled water with rules that producers need to follow to produce and market it to the public.

These are:

  • natural mineral water

  • spring water

  • bottled drinking water

There are different guidelines.

Labelling pre-packed food

Pre-packed food is any food that’s put into packaging before being put on sale and that cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging.

Information to display on labels or packaging

You must display the following information (mandatory information) on the product packaging or on a label attached to the packaging:

  • the name of the food

  • the quantitative ingredients declaration (QUID), where needed

  • a list of ingredients (including allergens)

  • the weight or volume of the food (net quantity)

  • a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date

  • the name and address of the food business operator (FBO) responsible for the food information

  • the alcoholic strength by volume (as a percentage) on drinks containing over 1.2% alcohol by volume



How to display information on labels or packaging

Information on labels must be difficult to remove (indelible).

Your labelling must allow the customer to see all the following information at the same time (it must be in the same field of vision):

  • the name of the food

  • the net quantity of the food

  • alcoholic strength by volume (for drinks containing over 1.2% alcohol)

You must print all the mandatory information using a font with a minimum x-height of 1.2 millimetres.



Add information about country of origin and special storage conditions

State a product’s country of origin or place of provenance on the label if the words or pictures on the packaging imply that it comes from somewhere else. For example, if a food has a tartan wrapper but was not made in Scotland, you need to put the actual country of origin on the label.

The ‘country of origin’ tells the consumer the country in which the food was produced. The ‘place of provenance’ may be a group of countries or a region within a country.

Some country of origin rules have changed. Read guidance on country of origin labelling.

Describe on the label any special storage conditions or instructions if consumers will need them to use the food appropriately. For example, a product may need the words ‘keep refrigerated and use within 3 days of opening’ or ‘do not reheat’.

If a product has been packaged in a protective atmosphere, include the words ‘packaged in a protective atmosphere’ on the label or packaging



List the ingredients

You must put a list of ingredients (including information on additives) on the packaging of all pre-packed products except:

  • fresh fruit and vegetables that have not been peeled, cut or similarly treated

  • carbonated water that is labelled as ‘carbonated water’

  • fermented vinegars derived from single, basic product (such as white wine) with no added ingredients

  • cheese, butter, fermented milk or cream if its only ingredients are lactic products, food enzymes and microorganism cultures essential to its manufacture

  • products consisting of a single ingredient where the name of the food is the same as the name of the ingredient or clearly identifies what the ingredient is (for example, peanuts or eggs)

  • products on which no side of the packaging or container has a surface area larger than 10cm squared

  • products in glass bottles for reuse that have food information indelibly marked on them and have no other labelling (for example, milk bottles)

  • any alcoholic drink containing over 1.2% alcohol by volume

You must put the ingredients list under a heading that contains the word ‘ingredients’.

If you’re not sure whether your particular food product is exempt from needing an ingredients list, contact your local trading standards office.




The name of ingredients should follow the rules set out for the name of the food. For example, you must only call an ingredient ‘jam’ if it meets the compositional standards for jam.

You must list the ingredients by weight from the most to the least that your product contains (based on the ingredient weights at the time of manufacture).


Give a quantitative ingredients declaration (QUID)

The QUID tells a customer the percentage of particular ingredients contained in a food product.

When to display the QUID

You must show a QUID if the ingredient:

  • is in the name of the food (for example, the ‘blackberry’ and ‘apple’ in a blackberry and apple pie)

  • is usually associated with that name by the consumer (‘mutton’ in a Lancashire hotpot)

  • is emphasised by words, pictures or graphics on the label (for example, if there’s a picture of blackberries on the label)

  • characterises a food and distinguishes it from products with a similar name or appearance

For example, lasagne made with pork must show the QUID for the pork because it characterises the product and distinguishes it from a lasagne (usually made with beef).

You do not need to give a QUID if the ingredients:

  • have only been used in small quantities as flavouring

  • are used in varying proportions and can be labelled as fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, herbs or spices (such as in a vegetable soup)

  • already have a quantity shown on the label as a ‘drained net weight’

You do not need a QUID for ingredients that can vary in quantity without altering the character of the food or distinguishing it from similar foods. For example, you do not need to show a QUID for flour in a flour tortilla.

You must give the meat QUID when you sell loose or pre-packed-for-direct-sale products that contain meat and other ingredients (except in a catering environment). You must display the QUID on a label on the food or display it clearly where the customer can see it when they are choosing the product.

On pre-packed food, you must give this information either:

  • as a percentage in brackets in the ingredients list after the name of the ingredient, for example ‘pork (80%)’

  • in or next to the name of the food, for example ‘containing 80% pork’



Show the ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date

You must usually show either a ‘best before’ or a ‘use by’ date on the packaging or label of pre-packed food products.

Only show a ‘use by’ date where there’s a safety issue with eating the food after this date. It’s a criminal offence to sell food that’s past its ‘use by’ date.

Read Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) guidance on date marking

You do not need to show a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date, but you must include a lot number on:

  • fresh fruit and vegetables which have not been peeled, cut or similarly treated (except for sprouting seeds and similar products, like legume sprouts)

  • wines, liqueur wines, sparkling wines, aromatised wines and similar products made from fruit other than grapes

  • drinks made from fermented grapes or grape musts

  • drinks containing 10% or more alcohol by volume

  • baked or pastry goods which are normally consumed within 24 hours of being made

  • vinegar

  • cooking salt

  • solid sugar

  • confectionery made almost solely of flavoured or coloured sugars

  • chewing gums and similar chewing products

If you’re not sure whether your particular food product is exempt from showing a date of minimum durability, contact your local trading standards office.

Show the name and address of the food business operator

You must include a business name and address on the packaging or food label of pre-packed food products. This must be either:

  • the name of the business whose name the food is marketed under

  • the address of the business that has imported the food

Pre-packaged food or caseins sold in NI must include a NI or EU FBO address. If the FBO is not in NI or EU, include the address of your importer, based in NI or the EU.

You can continue to use an EU, GB or NI address for the FBO on pre-packaged food or caseins sold in GB until 31 December 2023.

From 1 January 2024, pre-packaged food or caseins sold in GB must include a UK address for the FBO. If the FBO is not in the UK, include the address of your importer, based in the UK.

The address needs to be a physical address where your business can be contacted by mail. You cannot use an email address or phone number.



Give nutritional information

You must label pre-packed food products with nutritional information if:

  • you make a nutritional or health claim on the packaging (for example ‘high in fibre’ or ‘good source of calcium’)

  • vitamins or minerals have been added to the food

You can choose to provide nutrition information on other food products.

When you provide nutrition information, you must follow the guidance on nutrition labelling.

Nutrition labelling has been compulsory on most pre-packed foods since December 2016.

Tell the consumer about certain ingredients

You must tell the consumer if your product contains:

  • sweeteners or sugars

  • aspartame and colourings

  • liquorice

  • caffeine

  • polyols

Sweeteners and sugars

You must put the words, ‘with sweetener(s)’ by the name of food products containing sweeteners

You must put the words, ‘with sugar(s) and sweetener(s)’ by the name of food products containing both sugars and sweeteners.

Aspartame and colourings

To comply with the rules on labelling additives, you must put the following warnings on the label if the product contains aspartame:

  • ‘contains a source of phenylalanine’, if aspartame is named in the ingredients list

  • ‘contains aspartame (a source of phenylalanine)’ if you use the E number (E951) instead of the name in the ingredients list

Liquorice

You must tell the consumer if a product contains glycyrrhizinic acid, its ammonium salt or the liquorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Put the following words immediately after the ingredients list (or by the name of the food if there’s no ingredients list):

  • ‘contains liquorice’ on confectionary or drinks that contain 100 milligrams per kilogram or 10 milligrams per litre or more (unless you have named liquorice as an ingredient)

  • ‘contains liquorice – people suffering from hypertension should avoid excessive consumption’ on confectionery that contains 4 grams per kilogram or more

  • ‘contains liquorice – people suffering from hypertension should avoid excessive consumption’ on drinks that contain 50 milligrams per litre or more (or 300 milligrams per litre if it also contains more than 1.2% alcohol by volume)

Caffeine

You must label drinks that contain more than 150 milligrams per litre of caffeine with the words ‘High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women’.

This also applies to concentrated or dried drinks that will contain more than 150 milligrams per litre of caffeine when reconstituted. It does not apply to tea and coffee drinks if ‘tea’ or ‘coffee’ are in the name of the food.

Where caffeine has been added to a food product (other than a drink) for a physiological purpose, you must put the words ‘Contains caffeine. Not recommended for children or pregnant women’ on the label.

You must put these warnings in the same field of vision as the name of the food and include the caffeine content in milligrams per 100 grams or per 100 millilitres in brackets after the warning.

Polyols

You must label foods that contain more than 10% added polyols with the words ‘excessive consumption may produce laxative effects’.

Plant sterols and stanols

You must label foods with added phytosterols, phytosterol esters, phytostanols or phytostanol esters with all of the following:

  • ‘with added plant sterols’ or ‘with added plant stanols’ (in the same field of vision as the name of the food)

  • a statement that the food is intended exclusively for people who want to lower their blood cholesterol level, and a statement that the consumption of more than 3g per day of added plant sterols or plant stanols should be avoided (both in the same field of vision on the packaging)

  • a statement that patients on cholesterol lowering medication should only consume the product under medical supervision

  • an easily visible statement that the food may not be nutritionally appropriate for pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under the age of 5

  • advice that the food is to be used as part of a balanced and varied diet, including regular consumption of fruit and vegetables to help maintain carotenoid levels

  • a definition of a portion of the food or food ingredient along with the amount of the plant sterol or plant stanol that each portion contains

You must put the amount of added phytosterols, phytosterol esters, phytostanols or phytostanol esters the food contains in the list of ingredients (as a percentage or the number of grams of free plant sterols or plant stanols per 100g or 100ml).

Distance selling

If you sell food products online or by phone or mail order, you must make the required information available for free to the customer before they buy (except the durability and freezing dates) and when it is delivered to them.

Selling food products to other businesses

You must pass on certain information about products if you are an FBO selling food products to other businesses, not to the final consumer. At the end of the supply chain, whoever is selling a food product to the final consumer must have all the information they need to provide.

Information you must give

If the food will be sold non-pre-packed to the final consumer, you must provide all the information required for non pre-packed foods.

If the food will be sold pre-packed to the final consumer, you must provide all information required for pre-packed food. This applies even if the pre-packing will be done by someone else after you sell it.

If you do not know how the food will be sold to the final consumer, you should assume that it will be pre-packed.

How to give the information

You must give the information on the pre-packaging if the packaging will not be changed before the product is sold to the final consumer.

If you’re not responsible for the final pre-packaging of the product or it is non pre-packed, you must provide the information either:

  • on pre-packaging

  • on a label attached to the pre-packaging

  • in the commercial documents associated with the food

You must send your customer the commercial documents before or at the same time as you send them the food.

Label external packaging

You must also put extra information on any external packaging that you use to supply food that meets either of the following conditions:

  • it’ll be taken out of your external packaging and sold in its own packaging (for example, a large box containing bags of potato crisps)

  • it’ll be used by a mass caterer to prepare food or it’ll be split or cut up

You must label your external packaging with:

  • the name of the food

  • the ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date

  • any special storage conditions

  • the name and address of your business

Voluntary information

Some businesses that you sell to may ask you for additional, voluntary labelling information.

Important :

You must tell the Department for Health if you want to sell infant formula or medical food in the UK.


What is PPDS food?

Prepacked for direct sale or PPDS is food that is packaged at the same place it is offered or sold to consumers and is in this packaging before it is ordered or selected.

It can include food that consumers select themselves (e.g. from a display unit), as well as products kept behind a counter and some food sold at mobile or temporary outlets.


Examples of PPDS food

Prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) food can include the following:

  • Sandwiches and bakery products which are packed on site before a consumer selects or orders them

  • Fast food packed before it is ordered, such as a burger under a hot lamp where the food cannot be altered without opening the packaging

  • Products which are prepackaged on site ready for sale, such as pizzas, rotisserie chicken, salads and pasta pots

  • Burgers and sausages prepackaged by a butcher on the premises ready for sale to consumers

  • Samples of cookies given to consumers for free which were packed on site

  • Foods packaged and then sold elsewhere by the same operator at a market stall or mobile site

  • PPDS food provided in schools, care homes or hospitals and other similar settings will also require labelling


Improvement notices

In most cases, an officer from your local authority may issue you with an improvement notice if you have not complied with food regulations. Improvement notices cannot be issued in relation to net weight contraventions, but you can be prosecuted if you break net weight rules.

You’re committing an offence and may be prosecuted if you do not comply with an improvement notice.

You may be prosecuted (without first being given an improvement notice) if you break the rules on allergens.

An improvement notice will tell you what your business is doing wrong, what rules have been broken, how to comply and by when. It will also tell you how to appeal against an improvement notice.

You can continue to operate if you get an improvement notice, but you must do what it tells you to do within the time it specifies.

Reference: Food label & Safety guidelines (FSA) from UK Govt. Please take legal consulting before printing .

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