Labelling and food claims
The current food labelling requirements and voluntary guidelines are wide ranging and can be very confusing to decipher. A great deal of the legislation is laid out in wordy documents while other areas seem to have no clear cut guidelines and are therefore open to interpretation. The regulations and guidelines are in the process of being reviewed in an aim to simplify and clarify. These new regulations will take force in 2014 so all product labelling will need to be reassessed before then. Current and new guidelines/documents
There have been for sometime both legal requirements and voluntary guidelines in the food industry but this has excluded catering. However, this year the government have introduced voluntary guidelines and the catering industry will have to follow the same food labelling requirements by 2014 as food producers. The understanding is that these new regulations will be simplified but applied equally across the board to everyone in food manufacturing, catering and retail. Current and new guidelines/documents
Nutritional labelling and food claims – The difference
The basic nutritional requirement is found in a box at the back of a packet referred to as the Big 4 or Big & Little 4. This explains what macro-nutrients are in the product per 100g. The current guidelines are explained in extensive documents compiled by the Food Standards Agency, European FSA, Department of Health and/or DEFRA. Food claims are information you state about your product that highlights something better or unique eg high in Omega 3, free from, natural, 1 or your 5 a day or organic.
A product also needs a product statement on the front to explain what a consumer would expect to find for example, a crispy natural snack bar made from rice and dried fruit or a delicious tomato sauce flavoured with Mediterranean herbs.
One important point is that all the nutritional information you can get on the label is all you can say nutritionally on any publicity material including the internet. Basically if you can’t get it on the label you can not make a claim anywhere else even if you have pages of nutritional information you are keen to share with your customer.
Most nutritional food labelling regulations are voluntary. There are specific formats you must follow if you decide to apply nutritional labelling but in fact theoretically you can make whatever nutritional claims you like on a label. The true legal enforcement comes from proving this statement is true and is worded in a way that does not deceive the consumer. Basically, it is illegal to misinform or misrepresent and the rise in complaints to trading standards shows how savvy shoppers are becoming more cynical and less trusting about what they read on the label. Your customer base is also the people who police labelling claims so being straightforward and honest is not only a legality it also generates trust and confidence in your market.
You many be thinking it is “just more bureaucracy” but nutritionally analysing and labelling your products is not just about compliance. The benefit to you as the food producer is that it provides valuable information about your products or menus. Food analysis can reveal what is really good or bad nutritionally, how consistent this is across a range of products while highlighting what other nutritional claims could be made. It can also improve customer relationships and nutritional trust in what you provide and produce.
Selectfood – Experienced Help
Generally, your local trading standards officer is responsible for clarifying and approving your specific food labelling requests so a good relationship and strong evidence based presentations are imperative.
At Selectfood we offer a comprehensive food analysis and advisory programme that can provide all the information and assistance you need to generate appropriate nutritional labelling with the added reassurance of a greater nutritional understanding of the food you produce. Knowledge is a wonderful thing if this then enables you to fully and confidently promote nutritional value and quality.
With our nutritional knowledge we are happy to help with nutritional labelling but also with our background in journalism and copy writing we can also help to compile wording and phrases that bring out the best in what you produce.