DRAFT ONLY. Food product labelling. Foundation. Learning objectives. To recognise which information, by law, must appear on food products. To recognise the additional information which some food manufactures choose to place on food labels.
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Food product labelling
Pre-packaged foods have information on their labels which can help consumers choose between different foods, brands, or flavours.
Much of the information must be provided by law.
The following information must appear by law on food labels:
• the name of the food;
• weight or volume;
• allergy information;
• genetically modified (GM) information;
• date mark and storage conditions;
• preparation instructions;
• name and address of manufacturer, packer or seller;
• place of origin;
• lot (or batch) mark.
Additional information may also be provided, such as nutrition information, cooking instructions or serving suggestions.
In the UK, foods sold loose are currently exempt from many of the food labelling laws.
It is important that the name of the food must be clearly stated and not be ambiguous or misleading.
If the food has been processed in some way, the process must be included in the title if it would be misleading not to, e.g. dried apricots, salted peanuts, smoked bacon.
The name must also describe the differences between apparently similar products. For example, ‘fruit yogurt’ differentiates it from yogurt using artificial flavourings.
Sometimes foods have made up names, e.g. ‘Bonzo’ which give no information about what is in them or how they have been processed. In such cases, a description of the food must be given.
The weight or volume of the food must be shown on the label. By comparing the weight with the price of different brands, consumers can make sure that they are getting value for money.
Some foods – such as bread, tea and butter – are only sold in standard amounts.
For example, loaves of bread are sold as either 400g or 800g. The actual weight of the product must be within a few grams of the weight stated on the label. If products weigh less than 5g then the weight need not be stated.
Ingredients are listed in order by weight, according to the amounts that were used to make the food.
The list starts with the greatest, and ends with the least, in order of weight at the time they were used to make the food. Food additives and water must also be included in the list if they have been added.
Sometimes a particular ingredient is highlighted in the name, e.g. ‘Prawn Curry: now with extra prawns’. If so, the minimum amount of the named ingredient must be included in the ingredients list, or next to the name of the food.
Within the European Union, any of the 14 foods listed on the following slide used in a pre-packed food, need to be mentioned on the food label.
The improved labelling rules provide consumers with more comprehensive information about ingredients in pre-packed foods and are helpful for people with food allergies and intolerances who need to avoid certain foods.
The 14 foods are:
• cereals containing gluten (wheat, barley, rye and oats)
• crustaceans (such as lobster and crab)
• cow’s milk
• molluscs (such as mussels and oysters)
• nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashes, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts)
• sesame seeds
• sulphur dioxide and sulphites (preservatives used in some foods and drinks) at levels above 10mg per kg or per litre.
The presence in foods of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or ingredients produced from GMOs must be indicated on the label. For GM products sold 'loose', information must be displayed immediately next to the food to indicate that it is GM.
Small amounts of approved GM ingredients (below 0.9% for approved GM varieties) that are accidentally present in a food do not need to be labelled.
Foods produced with GM technology (e.g. cheese produced with GM enzymes) and products such as meat, milk and eggs from animals fed on GM animal feed do not have to be labelled.
The label must say how long foods should be kept and how to store them. Following the storage instructions can prevent food from spoiling too quickly, can reduce the risk of food poisoning and can help to make sure that it tastes and looks its best when it is eaten.
Foods which spoil quickly (i.e. are highly perishable) such as cooked meat and fish have a ‘Use by’ date. If kept for too long these foods can cause food poisoning even though they may not taste odd.
A simple star system is used to indicate what temperature the food should be held at and for how long:
* - 6 º C 1 week (pre frozen food only);
** - 12 º C 1 month (pre frozen food only);
*** - 18 º C 3 months (pre frozen food only);
**** - 18 º C or colder 6 months (pre frozen food; can also be used to freeze fresh food from room temperature).
Other foods have a ‘best before’ date, after which foods may not be at their best, with regard to flavour, colour and texture, even though they will probably be safe if they have been stored according to the instructions on the label.
One exception to this is eggs, which can contain dangerous bacteria, salmonella. Eggs should not be consumed after the ‘best before’ date.
Instructions on how to prepare and cook the food must be given on the label, if they are needed. If the food has to be heated, the temperature of the oven and the cooking time will usually be stated.
Instructions may also be given for heating in a microwave oven. These instructions should make sure that the food tastes its best and that it will be thoroughly heated to a core temperature of 72ºC, which will help to minimise the risk of food poisoning.
The name and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller must be stated on the label.
Consumers can then contact the manufacturer if they have a complaint about a product or if they wish to know more about it.
The label must show clearly the place food has come from if it would be misleading not to show it, for example, a tub of ‘Greek Yogurt’ which was made in France.
The European Union has created three systems to promote and protect regional food products. These include the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), and the Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG).
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) is used for food produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how, e.g. West Country farmhouse Cheddar cheese and Jersey Royal potatoes.
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) the geographical link must occur in at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation, e.g. Melton Mowbray Pork pie, Scottish farmed salmon and Welsh lamb.
Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) highlights traditional character, either in composition or means of production, e.g. traditional farm fresh turkey in the UK.
A lot mark is a code which is required by law to appear on the label. It helps to identify batches of food in the event that they need to be recalled by the manufacture, packer or producers.
A date mark is sometimes used as a lot mark. Lot marks may be indicated by the letter ‘L’.
Pre-packed red meat and meat products, for example, must carry traceability information for identification of the product through the supply chain back to the farm.
Other information which may appear on the label:
• bar codes;
• nutrition information;
• organic certification;
• vegetarian certification;
• front of pack labelling schemes.
Many food labels have a bar code and number on them.
This is not required by law, but bar codes are a quick and easy way of identifying items especially at supermarket checkouts where the scanner can also identify other information such as the price.
Bar codes are also used for stock control in shops and warehouses.
Many food labels include nutrition information. This can help consumers to find out the amount of different nutrients in the foods and make a choice.
It can also help them to select foods based on the amount of energy, carbohydrates, sugars, protein, fat, saturated fat, dietary fibre and sodium they contain.
Food manufacturers are not obliged by law to give nutrition information unless they make a nutrition claim, e.g. ‘low fat’ or ‘high fibre’, but if they do, they must follow certain rules.
If they choose to provide nutrition information it must be in one of two formats.
Further information can be added to labels such as the amounts of polyunsaturates, monounsaturates, starch, cholesterol, vitamins and minerals.
Format 1: ‘Big 4’
Energy(kJ and kcal)
Format 2: ‘Big 4 and Little 4’
Energy (kJ and kcal)
of which: sugars(g)
of which: saturates(g)
Because information is always in one of the two formats, it is easier for consumers to compare different labels. Information must always be given as values per 100g or per 100ml of food. Values for a portion or serving can be given as well.
Very prescriptive regulations on nutrient claims are now in force across the European Union.
General claims about benefits to overall good health, such as ‘healthy’ or ‘good for you’, will only be allowed to be used if accompanied by an appropriate and approved claim. This means that more general claims must be backed up by an explanation of why the food is ‘healthy’ or what makes it a ‘superfood’.
Labels are not allowed to claim that food can treat, prevent or cure any disease of medical condition. These sorts of claims can only be made of licenced medicines.
Every organic food product needs to gain a certificate from one of six UK Certification bodies. This certification can be found on a food label to identify it as genuinely organic. In addition, organic food products can be sold in two forms:
Category 1- Products must contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients by weight before a product can be labelled ‘organic’.
Category 2 – special emphasis: Products which contain 70-95% organic ingredients by weight can be labelled ‘Made with organic ingredients’.
There is currently no single legal definition of the terms ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ either at a European or UK level.
Products displaying the ‘Vegetarian Society Approved’ logo must fulfil certain requirements laid down by the Vegetarian Society.
The ‘Suitable for Vegetarians’ logo is not regulated. It is known as a ‘voluntary claim’, which means it is illegal for the labelling information to include anything that is false or likely to mislead.
The Food Standards Agency, has developed a set of guidelines for the labelling of food on front of pack. These are voluntary guidelines using ‘traffic lights’ to make it easier for consumers to make a healthy choice.
Traffic light labels on the front-of-pack provides information on high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.
The number of grams of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt in what the manufacturer or retailer suggests as a ‘serving’ of the food though the criteria are per 100g.
Traffic light colours make it easier to compare products quickly. Traffic light label designs may look different between companies, but they will use the FSA guidelines.
This type of labelling has been designed for specific products such as ready meals, sandwiches, pizzas, sausages, pies and food products containing breadcrumbs e.g. chicken nuggets and fish fingers.
Food Standards Agency
Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) are guidelines for healthy adults and children on the approximate amount of calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, total sugars, protein, fibre, salt and sodium required for a healthy diet.
Some major food manufactures and retailers use this system to provide front of pack labelling. These are based on the requirements of an average person.
GDAs are not targets for individuals to consume, but a guideline or benchmark to help them make dietary choices and balance their daily intake.
This front-of-pack labelling scheme also highlights the fat, saturates, sugar and salt content of food, and displays the calorie content. The value for each of these nutrients is shown alongside the percentage of the GDA that this nutrient represents. Some GDA labels also include traffic light colour coding.
Some examples are shown below:
For more information visit www.nutrition.org.ukwww.foodafactoflife.org.uk