The advice sheets below have the latest information on food standards. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Enforcement & Regulatory option).
In the guide
This guidance is for England
EU Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers contains some basic requirements that most food must be labelled with: the food name, ingredients list, a percentage quantity indication for certain ingredients (known as QUID - quantitative ingredient declaration), the net quantity, a use-by date or minimum durability indication, storage conditions, name / address of food business operator responsible for 'placing on the market', place of origin, instructions for use and nutrition information.
There are other specific additional labelling requirements, including those relating to allergenic ingredients, irradiated foods, genetically modified foods, alcoholic drinks, etc. There are also guidelines in relation to any labelling claims.
There is a general requirement that the label (and any other information, such as that given in advertisements or on websites) must not be misleading and must be accurate, clear, and easy for the consumer to understand.
The requirements cover the labelling of food that has been packaged or imported into the European Union market by or on behalf of retailers, wholesalers or manufacturers, for retail sale from premises other than at the place of packing.
The labelling requirements are complex and vary from product to product. There are certain basic requirements for all food labels. They are as follows:
The above is a brief summary of the requirements. There are specific rules about the details of each of these indications and the manner in which they are presented, which also need to be followed. For example:
There is a minimum font size for the mandatory information.
Some products also have specific additional labelling requirements. For example:
Specific additional information must be included on the label if it applies to the food. For example:
The food label may make claims about the nutritional properties of the food - for example, 'low fat' - and/or the potential health benefits consuming the food may have. These claims are controlled by EU Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods and the Nutrition and Health Claims (England) Regulations 2007 and the Welsh equivalent.
Any claims must be permitted by the Regulations. See the Department of Health guidance on Nutrition and health claims (opens in a new window) and the EU register of permitted claims (opens in a new window) for more information. The Department of Health has also produced Technical guidance on nutrition labelling (opens in a new window) under EU Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011.
If the food (or any advertising for the food) makes a claim that consuming it can treat or be a remedy for cancer, or it gives any advice in connection with the treatment of cancer this is an offence under the Cancer Act 1939.
All food must comply with traceability requirements (see the European Commission factsheet Food traceability (opens in a new window)). Some foods, such as beef and honey, have specific labelling requirements for traceability but others need to follow general guidelines to ensure that you know which supplier individual foods come from, and to whom you have supplied your goods if they go to another business.
Failure to comply may result in an improvement notice being issued, requiring compliance to be achieved. If the improvement notice is not complied with it is an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.
If allergen information does not comply with the requirements it is an offence under the Food Information Regulations 2014. The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine.
Last reviewed / updated: December 2016
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.