Food Labeling – A service of my-lab International

Last updated: 21. March 2018

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Food labeling provides the consumer with valuable information on a product

Incorrect labeling is the most common reason for food producers to receive a written warning from food monitoring authorities. The correct label is an important part of marketability.

my-lab international is able to compile a list of legally relevant issues based on the recipe and an examination of the label. In doing so, we take into account the Regulation on the Provision of Food Information to the Consumer (FIC previously: German Food Labeling Ordinance (LMKV) and German Directive on Nutritional Labeling) as well as food stuff guidelines and additional relevant recommendations.

In addition to carrying out food label reviews of pre-packaging for the German market, we can likewise offer international label reviews or translation into a relevant language. We are also happy to help you with correct labeling of bulk goods or menus. Simply get in touch and let us know what you need.

The 12 most important features of food labeling in accordance with R (EU) 1169/2011:

Regulation on the Provision of Food Information (FIC)

You will need:

1. A Sales Name

The sales name of the food item makes it clear what is being sold, for example apple juice. The sales name is not to be confused with the product name or type. Both of the latter can be selected freely based on marketing strategy, but the sales name must make it clear to the consumer what they can expect from the product.

2. A List of Ingredients

The ingredients are sorted and listed according to quantity. The ingredient that makes up the largest percentage is listed first.

In addition, the ingredients for ingredients must be listed. In the case of cherry jam with chocolate pieces, this means, for example, that the ingredients in the chocolate must also be listed. Additives such as emulsifiers may be added to the ingredients list as E-numbers. It is often the case, however, that the consumer does not want to see E-numbers, which is why they have been replaced by terms such as ‘natural lecithin’. The list of E-Numbers and the associated substances, as well as the maximum allowable amount in food stuffs, is listed in the Annex to the Regulation on Food Additives (Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 – Food Additives).

  • The substance groups listed are:
  • Food coloring substances
  • Preservative substances
  • Antioxidants and acid emulsifiers
  • Sweeteners
  • Emulsifiers, stablelizers, thickening agents and gelling agents
  • Anti-caking agents
  • Flavour enhancers
  • Additional substances

If an ingredient is highlighted, the quantity of said ingredient must be provided in the ingredients list. In the case of jam with chocolate pieces, the proportion of chocolate in the packaging must be provided.

 3. The Best Before Date

This date indicates the smallest time frame within which the food will maintain its characteristic features, provided that storage conditions are met. There are a variety of options for presentation. The form chosen depends on the shelf life of the item.

Shelf LifeDetailExamples
AllDay, month, yearAll food
Up to 3 monthsDay, monthDairy products, bakery products
3 – 18 Monthsuntil the end of… month / yearJuice, noodles, beer
more than 18 monthsuntil the end of… yearJam, preserves

There are specific procedures for determining shelf life. Usually, the shelf life is determined based on microbiological parameters in accordance with defined storage conditions.

 4. A Nutrition Label

As of December 2014, a nutrition label is required on food stuffs.  The following information must be provided in chart form:

  • Energy
  • Fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Carbohydrates
  • Sugar
  • Protein
  • Salt

amount per 100 g or 100 ml. This allows the consumer to make informed decisions about their nutrition and perhaps even their diet.

Exceptions for micro-companies and direct sellers

There are some exceptions to the requirement to provide nutritional information, which came into effect on 13.12.2016.

They apply, on the one hand, to micro-companies. Businesses with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover of less than 2 million Euro are considered micro-companies and are not required to provide nutritional information. This applies even if the product is sold via the internet.

Operations that manufacture small amounts of product and sell them directly to the end consumer are also freed from this obligation. These operations include, for example, farm shops, individually operated points of sale, street vendors or market stalls. Delivery (e.g. from bakeries, kiosks, etc.) is also allowed within a radius of 50km, sometimes even 100km in specific regions. The exception is distance selling only, that is internet sales. In this case, nutrition information must be provided.

 5. Allergen Labels

Allergen labels are particularly important for those with allergies. 14 product groups are explicitly classified as allergens and must be listed on the label if they are contained within the food stuff, for example ‘contains peanuts’. The ingredient must also be highlighted in the ingredients list (bold). Manufacturers often stay on the safe side and provide warnings such as ‘may contain traces of peanuts’ although peanuts are not actually used as an ingredient. In doing so, they refer to potential cross-contamination, for example from the food previously manufactured on the same production line.

The 14 most important allergen groups must be noted on the label:

  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Crustaceans
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Milk (including lactose)
  • Nuts
  • Celery
  • Mustard
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites
  • Lupin
  • Molluscs (snails, oysters, etc.)

Ingredients that come from these product groups must be highlighted within the ingredients list.

6.  Fill Quantity

How much is in the glass? Information in g or ml.

 7. Manufacturer’s Information

Name and address of the manufacturer of the product.

 8. Lot-/Batch Number

If no day is listed as part of the best-before date, a lot number or batch number must be provided.

The Regulation specifies the minimum font size in which this information must be printed on the label.

 9. Legal Stumbling Blocks

The glasses are now labelled in accordance with the Regulation on the Provision of Food Information (FIC). Now there are a few more legal stumbling blocks to take care of. The first basic question is whether the sales are private or whether this is a commercial activity. There is no clear legal boundary in this case; the law simply states that a commercial activity is present if sales take place regularly. But when is something considered ‘regular’? In the end, this is left to the judge’s interpretation.

If, for example, you regularly sell jam on Ebay as a private person, you are in danger of receiving a written warning from a commercial jam manufacturer.

For this reason, it is better to start right away as a commercial enterprise. To do that, you will require the following:

  • Approval from the local Ordnungsamt (Regulatory Agency) regarding food production
  • Trade license
  • Certificate on proper food preparation procedures (awarded after a short course which takes approx. 2 hours)
  • A travelling business license if you wish to sell at local markets

That all sounds like a lot of work, but it really does not take much effort. Anyone interested should simply contact their city of residence, as generally they have a package with all necessary addresses and contact partners.

As the sale of food stuffs is considered additional income, you might also want to inform your employer.

10. No Labelling Requirements for Excipients

Thanks to Foodwatch, the issue of pig gelatin in apple juice is currently in the media. Foodwatch condemns the fact that these types of excipients do not have to be listed on the label, however, the excipients are often no longer detectable within the final product.

Only those who want to market their product as vegan must ensure that no animal additives, excipients, etc. are used during the entirety of the production process.

The following products may contain animal components or be produced using excipients derived from animals:

  • Flavours
  • Technical excipients
  • Additives (colouring etc.)

Food stuff manufacturers, and those who want to enter the industry, are not required to provide information on excipients derived from animals on the label. Even though the law does not require it, it is still more customer friendly to list any such additions. Anyone who is certain that they do not use any substances with animal origins in their product can apply for and license the relevant V label

.

11. Food Labels in Online Stores

The Regulation on the Provision of Food Information to the Consumer differentiates between food that is pre-packaged and food that is not pre-packaged. Food that is not pre-packaged includes, for example, a vegetable box from the organic store which can be ordered from the internet. Article 14 of the Regulation on the Provision of Food Information to the Consumer regulates labelling of food that is going to be sold online.

For pre-packaged food stuffs sold online, the same information requirements apply as for these packaged products in the store. The exception is the best-before date, which does not have to be listed. The information must be available before the sale is made and at the time of delivery. It must appear on the carrier material for the order. Food that is not pre-packaged is largely excluded from these information requirements.

12. Food Labels and Prohibited Marketing

Prohibitions are usually applied to health-related marketing statements. An attempt is always being made to assign health properties to certain foods. Typical examples include:

  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Prevents brittle fingernails
  • Strengthens intestinal flora

But self-evident features are also listed

  • No preservatives (on a product for which the addition of preservatives is forbidden)

Use of the terms

  • Nature
  • Natural
  • Nature-identical
  • Pure nature

etc. are often the subject of court cases to clarify if they are allowed to be used in individual cases.

EU Regulation No. 432/2012 contains the first list of permissible marketing statements regarding health claims. As an example, the statement “Calcium may help improve bone density” may be used if the food stuff fulfils the requirements of a calcium source in accordance with the information provided in the Annex of Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006. At the moment it is usually supplements and the currently very popular ‘superfood’ products that are advertised in this manner. These types of health claims constitute a completely different specialist area, and require cooperation with experts possessing the necessary competence and expertise.

Who provides food label consultations?

Food technologists are the experts in this area. Food technology is a course of study which includes not just knowledge of the composition of food and the analysis of same, but also the legal regulations in the German Food and Feed Code (LFGB) and associated regulations, laws, and guidelines. A Food Technologist is therefore more or less a Food Lawyer.

The my-lab Portal is run by food technologists. If you have questions regarding labelling, analysing contents and contaminants, or other regulatory issues regarding food, then you have come to the right place!


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    Titelpic + articlepic | Source: my-lab International | modified by my-lab International