13 December 2014 was a key date for all those operating in the food industry. On this date, most of the provisions of the EU Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers ("the FIC Regulation") came into force across the EU.
Some of the key changes which came into effect on 13 December 2014 are as follows:
- a list of mandatory information, such as the list of ingredients, the quantity of certain ingredients or categories of ingredients, any special storage conditions and/or conditions of use, must now appear on the label of a food;
- certain information, such as the name of the food and the net quantity of the food, must also appear in the same "field of vision";
- the requirement to provide country of origin labelling in respect of certain products (such as honey) has been extended to the meat of pigs, sheep, goats and poultry.
- food sold by distance selling (e.g. online) must meet the same information requirements as food sold in shops.
- frozen meat, frozen meat preparations and frozen unprocessed fishery products must state the date of freezing or the date of first freezing.
- highly perishable foods must display a "use by" date, in place of the date of minimum durability. Once the "use by" date on a highly perishable food has passed, the food will automatically be deemed to be unsafe and cannot be placed on the market.
- food labels must display allergen information in such a way as to distinguish it from the rest of the list of ingredients, e.g. by using a different font or typeset.
- the requirement to highlight allergen information has been extended to loose, non-pre-packed foods sold in restaurants, canteens and takeaways and other similar businesses.
Rules in relation to the provision of mandatory nutrition information will apply from 13 December 2016. Specific requirements regarding the designation of minced meat have been in force since 1 January 2014.
In Ireland, the European Union (Provision of Food Information to Consumers) Regulations 2014 also came into operation on 13 December 2014. At a basic level, these Regulations provide that it is an offence to supply food which is not accompanied by food information in accordance with the FIC Regulation and then go on to provide that non-compliance with many of the additional specific requirements of the FIC Regulation is an offence. Enforcement measures and penalties are also set down.
Irish Regulations on Allergens
Irish Regulations on the provision of food allergen information in respect of non-pre-packed food also came into force on 13 December 2014. These Regulations set out rules on how allergen particulars are to be made available on pre-packed food. They prohibit food business operators from presenting or making available food for sale or supply, or from selling or supplying food, unless written particulars of any allergen in the food are indicated at: (a) the point of presentation; (b) the point of sale; or (c) the point of supply. Failure to comply with these Regulations is an offence.
The FIC Regulation was first published in 2011, but a long lead in date to the coming into force of its provisions was allowed to ensure that food business operators had sufficient time to make any changes necessary to their packaging, labelling and presentation of foodstuffs.
The level of enforcement by the member states in coming months will be monitored with great interest.
This article contains a general summary of developments and is not a complete or definitive statement of the law. Specific legal advice should be obtained where appropriate.