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What do the new EU food information rules mean for consumers?

The new rules mean that food can’t have misleading labels, pre-packaged foods must say if they contain allergens, and refined oils and fats can be grouped together.

Image: Shutterstock

NEW FOOD INFORMATION rules have been introduced by the EU – but what do they mean for consumers?

The current rules were first introduced in 1979, when the food labelling landscape was vastly different to today. Work on a major revision of the rules began in the EU some time ago, culminating in the publication on 22 November of the new regulations on the provision of food information to customers.

The new regulation will replace the current rules, and will apply from 13 December 2014. It refers to food information “made available to the final consumer by means of a label, other accompanying material, or any other means including modern technology tools or verbal communication”.


Under the new regulation, food information must not be misleading. For example, companies are not to label food to say it has special characteristics when in fact all similar foods possess such characteristics.

They also won’t be able to depict a particular food or an ingredient (in a photo, for example), when an ingredient normally used in that food has been substituted with a different one.


The list of mandatory information which should be provided for all foods includes product name, list of ingredients, net weight, etc. However, certain particulars in this list have been extended and other voluntary ones will be mandatory under the new rules, eg nutrition labelling, origin labelling for certain meats.

The label must mention if food has aspartame/aspartame-acesulfame salt. Beverages with high caffeine content must also be marked.

Under the new regulation, the name of the product, the net quantity of food and the actual alcoholic strength by volume for beverages containing more than 1.2 per cent by volume of alcohol must appear in the same field of vision.

Refined oils and fats of vegetable origin can be grouped together in the ingredients’ list as  ‘vegetable oils’ or ‘vegetable fats’ as appropriate. Oil or fat of animal origin must be labelled as such.


All pre-packaged food products must indicate on the label if they contain specific ingredients which the EU has identified as causing allergenic reactions in certain people or to which individuals can be intolerant to.

Under the new rules, this requirement has been extended to foods sold loose such as food in restaurants, take-aways, canteens and deli counters.

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The date of minimum durability of a food has also been introduced, and means “the date until which the food retains its specific properties when properly stored”.

In the case of foods which are highly perishable, the date of minimum durability must be replaced by the ‘use-by’ date.

Ingredients list

The ingredients must first list the energy value, followed by the amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt

The declaration for ‘carbohydrate’ is now listed after ‘fat’ and ‘saturates’, while ‘sodium’  has been replaced by ‘salt’. All parts of the mandatory nutrition declaration should be in the same field of vision on the packaging .

Country of origin labelling is currently mandatory for certain products (eg beef, fish, honey, olive oil and fresh fruit and vegetables). Under the new rules, this is extended to the meat of pigs, sheep, goats and poultry.

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