The advice sheets below have the latest information on food standards. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Regulatory Services option).
In the guide
General labelling requirements for packaged food products
This guidance is for England
This guidance relates to prepacked food only.
'Prepacked food' is defined in EU Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers as "… food and the packaging into which it was put before being offered for sale, whether such packaging encloses the food completely or only partially, but in any event in such a way that the contents cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging …".
The definition of prepacked does not cover food packed on the sales premises at the consumer's request; nor does it cover food that is sold from the premises on which it was packed or from a mobile stall or vehicle used by the packer (referred to as 'prepacked for direct sale').
The following information is mandatory on prepacked foods:
Some of these requirements have been covered in detail in separate guides:
In addition to this there is a general requirement that the labelling is accurate, clear and not misleading. Claims, especially those in relation to nutrition and health, are strictly controlled; please refer to 'Nutrition & health claims' for further information.
Mandatory information must be clear, legible and indelible. It must be presented on the packaging, on a label attached to the packaging or on a label visible through the packaging.
Mandatory information cannot be hidden in any way; therefore having the information on parts of the packaging that need to be peeled up, unfolded, are only visible when the product is open, etc is not permitted for mandatory information. You can still use these types of packaging but none of the mandatory information can be on them.
Mandatory information must be large enough to be legible so there is a minimum font size of an x-height of 1.2 mm that can be used, which means that the lower-case x for whatever font size you are using cannot be smaller than 1.2 mm. This is approximately font size 8 in Times New Roman but will differ from font to font.
In the case of very small products (those whose largest surface is less than 80 cm2) the x-height is reduced to 0.9 mm (approximately font size 6 in Times New Roman).
Mandatory information must be indelible, so you must use ink that will not run or rub off. This is especially important when you are writing use-by and best-before dates by hand; choose a pen that will not run.
All mandatory information must be in English although you can include labelling in other languages in addition to English labelling. For full details please refer to 'Food labelled in a foreign language'.
It is common for manufacturers to include large amounts of information that is not required by law (descriptions of the taste, for example); this is referred to as 'voluntary information'.
You can include as much voluntary information as you please, provided it is not false or misleading; however, you cannot do so at the expense of mandatory information. If you find that you have no room for mandatory information (or would have to use a too-small font size or not use the required format) because you have given label space over to voluntary information then you will need to either remove or reduce the voluntary information.
You will need to draw consumers' attention to any allergenic ingredients that are present in the food. For full details please refer to 'Food allergens & intolerance'.
Most prepacked food will require a durability date; either a use-by or a best-before date depending on the nature of the food and how long it can be expected to stay edible.
For more details please see 'Date & lot marking of prepacked food'.
Name & address
Prepacked food is required to bear a name and address of a food business operator (FBO) based in the European Union (EU) that takes responsibility for the food.
The appropriate name and address is normally that of the manufacturer but could also be that of an importer.
If the product is marketed under the name of a food business other than the manufacturer then the name and address of that business should appear on the product. Therefore, if you manufacture goods for another business to sell under their name then you will need to put their details on the label.
The food business under whose name the food is marketed is the business that is ultimately responsible for the food.
The name must be that of the appropriate legal entity (sole trader, limited company, etc) and the address must be a postal address in the EU that is sufficiently detailed for legal documents to reach the business.
Depending on the size of the business or location (on an industrial estate, for example) it may be sufficient to have just a postcode; alternatively a full address may be required.
You may provide a supplementary email address / web address / telephone number, but these must be in addition to a postal address.
If you are a small trader manufacturing from home and do not wish to use your home address you may alternatively use:
All prepacked foods (other than a few exemptions covered below) are required to have a net quantity indication.
'Net quantity' means the weight of food (or volume in the case of liquids), less the weight of the packaging.
The indication must be given in kilograms or grams for solids, and in litres, centilitres or millilitres for liquids (metric indication).
The net quantity must be in the same field of vision as the name of the product and the alcoholic strength where appropriate (this means the consumer must be able to hold the product so that all the information is visible at the same time).
You may provide a supplementary net quantity in imperial measurements (pounds, ounces, fluid ounces, etc) but the indication must not be given greater prominence than the metric net quantity.
If a prepacked product contains multiple identical prepacked products (a multipack of crisps, for example) you must state the net quantity of the individual product and how many products the pack contains - for example, 'Ready salted crisps' '6 x 25 g'.
If the number of products and the net quantity printed on the individual product is visible through the packaging then this does not apply.
Products containing multiple different items
If a product contains multiple items, none of which are intended to be sold separately, you should declare the combined net weight and state how many individual packages are in the product - for example, a home baking kit: '300 g product contains: sponge mix, icing mix, six cupcake wrappers'.
Products in liquid
If the product is in a liquid medium (fruit juice, water, brine, etc) that needs to be removed prior to consuming the food then you must also state the drained weight of the product.
If the product is in a glaze (ice, sugar, salt, etc) then the net quantity is the weight without the glaze.
The following do not need a net quantity declaration:
You will only need to include storage instructions if they are necessary to ensure that the food continues to be edible and maintains its quality until the durability date that you have put on the food - for example, 'Keep refrigerated', 'Store in a cool dry place', 'Refrigerate after opening'.
Storage instructions should be close to either the durability date or instructions on where the durability date can be found - for example, 'For best-before see base of pack - refrigerate after opening'.
Instructions for use
You will only need to include instructions for use if the consumer would find it difficult to use the product correctly without them; examples include cooking times for ready meals that need to be cooked in a microwave and mixing instructions for powdered products.
There are no specific requirements but instructions for use should be clear and not misleading.
Country or place of origin
Origin labelling will only be required in the following circumstances.
Consumers might be misled if you don't state the origin.
The whole product must be considered when deciding whether the label is misleading. Examples include:
If the label is potentially misleading you must state the country or place of origin of the product - for example, 'Product of England'.
Where a country or place of origin has been named but the primary ingredient is from somewhere else.
'Primary ingredient' means an ingredient that makes up 50% or more of the product or is usually associated with the product by the consumer - for example, 'Swedish meatballs made with British pork and beef'; in this case the description 'Swedish' relates to the recipe rather than the origin of the meat.
In cases such as this you must either:
Where the primary ingredient is sourced from multiple countries you do not need to list them all but any statement you make must not be misleading - for example, 'Product of various countries' or 'Product of meat from EU countries'.
There are specific origin labelling requirements for beef. For more information please see 'Labelling of beef'.
Other specific labelling requirements
Specific information must be given for any product:
Please refer to annex III of EU Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 (see link in 'Key legislation' below).
Selling food over the internet
If you sell food over the internet you will need to provide full prepacked labelling information on both the website and the product.
The information should appear on the same page as the product and be available to the consumer before they make a purchase.
You do not have to include the durability date.
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 a fine.
Last reviewed / updated: September 2018
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.