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Labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs

Pre-packaged foodstuffs must comply with the rules on labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs. These rules are harmonised at European Union (EU) level to enable European consumers to make informed choices and to remove obstacles to the free circulation of foodstuffs and unequal conditions of competition.

ACT

Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 March 2000 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs [See amending act(s)].

SUMMARY

The Directive applies to pre-packaged foodstuffs to be delivered to the final consumer or to restaurants, hospitals, canteens and other similar mass caterers. It does not apply to products intended for export outside the European Union (EU).

The labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs must not:

  • mislead the consumer as to the foodstuff’s characteristics or effects;
  • attribute to a foodstuff (except for natural mineral waters and foodstuffs intended for special diets, which are covered by specific Community provisions) properties for the prevention, treatment or cure of a human illness.

COMPULSORY LABELLING PARTICULARS

The labelling of foodstuffs must include compulsory information. The particulars indicated on products must be easy to understand, visible, legible and indelible. Some of them must appear in the same field of vision.

The compulsory particulars include:

  • Name under which the product is sold;
  • List of ingredients, which are listed in descending order of weight and designated by their specific name, subject to the derogations provided in Annexes I, II, III and III a). Ingredients which belong to more than one category are indicated according to their principal function.
    Under certain conditions, the listing of ingredients is not required for:
    1. fresh fruit and vegetables,
    2. carbonated water,
    3. fermentation vinegars,
    4. cheese, butter, fermented milk and cream,
    5. products comprising a single ingredient, where the trade name is identical with the ingredient name, or the trade name enables the nature of the ingredient to be clearly identified.
    Certain additives and enzymes are not considered as ingredients; this relates to those which are used as processing aids or those contained in an ingredient, which serve no technological function in the finished product;
  • Quantity of ingredients or categories of ingredients expressed as a percentage
    This requirement applies when an ingredient or a category of ingredients:
    1. appears in the name under which the foodstuff is sold or is usually associated with that name by the consumer,
    2. is emphasised on the labelling in words, pictures or graphics, or
    3. is essential to characterise an indicated foodstuff (but certain exceptions may be provided);
  • Net quantity expressed in units of volume in the case of liquids and units of mass in the case of other products. However, there are specific provisions for foodstuffs sold by number and solid foodstuffs presented in a liquid medium;
  • Date of minimum durability This date consists of the day, month and year, except in the case of foodstuffs that will not keep for more than three months (the day and month are sufficient), foodstuffs which will not keep for more than 18 months (the month and year are sufficient), and foodstuffs which will keep for more than 18 months (year is sufficient).
    The date shall be preceded by the words: ‘Best before …’ when the date includes an indication of the day or ‘Best before end …’ in other cases.
    The date of durability is not required for the following products:
    1. untreated fresh fruits and vegetables,
    2. wines and beverages containing 10 % or more by volume of alcohol,
    3. non-alcoholic soft drinks,
    4. fruit juices and alcoholic beverages in individual containers of more than five litres, intended for supply to mass caterers,
    5. bakers' or pastry cooks' wares which are normally consumed within 24 hours of their manufacture,
    6. vinegar,
    7. cooking salt,
    8. solid sugar,
    9. confectionery products consisting almost solely of flavoured and/or coloured sugars,
    10. chewing gums and similar chewing products,
    11. individual portions of ice-cream.
    In the case of foodstuffs which are highly perishable, the date of minimum durability shall be replaced by the ‘use by’ date;
  • any special storage conditions or conditions of use;
  • the name or business name and address of the manufacturer or packager, or of a seller established within the Community. However, Member States shall be authorised, in respect of butter produced in their territory, to require only an indication of the manufacturer, packager or seller;
  • the place of origin or provenance where failure to give such particulars might mislead the consumer;
  • instructions for use should be included to enable appropriate use of the foodstuff;
  • indication of the acquired alcoholic strength of beverages containing more than 1.2 % by volume of alcohol.

DEROGATIONS AND SPECIAL PROVISIONS

The European provisions applicable to specific foodstuffs may authorise making particulars such as the list of ingredients and date of minimum durability optional. These provisions may provide for other compulsory particulars, provided this does not result in the purchaser being inadequately informed.

Special provisions apply to:

  • reusable glass bottles and small packaging items or containers;
  • pre-packaged foodstuffs. Where pre-packaged foodstuffs are marketed at a stage prior to sale to the final consumer or are supplied to mass caterers for processing, the particulars need appear only on the commercial documents, provided that the name under which the product is sold, the date of minimum durability and the details of the manufacturer or packager appear on the outer packaging of the foodstuff;
  • foodstuffs offered for sale without pre-packaging and foodstuffs packaged on the sales premises at the consumer’s request.

SAFEGUARD CLAUSE

The marketing of foodstuffs which comply with the Directive may be prohibited only in the case of non-harmonised national provisions that are justified on particular grounds, such as the protection of public health, prevention of fraud or the protection of industrial or commercial property.

COMMITTEE AND BACKGROUND

The implementation of the Directive is the responsibility of the European Commission, assisted by the Standing Committee on Foodstuffs (authorisation of national rules relating to certain foodstuffs and making provision for the listing of ingredients in addition to the name under which the product is sold, derogations in respect of compulsory particulars, description of an additive as an ingredient, changes to the annexes, adoption of transitional measures, etc.).

Directive 2000/13/EC replaces Council Directive 79/112/EEC on the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 2000/13/EC

26.5.2000

-

OJ L 109 of 6.5.2000

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 2001/101/EC

18.12.2001

31.12.2002

OJ L 310 of 28.11.2001

Directive 2002/67/EC

8.8.2002

30.6.2003

OJ L 191 of 19.7.2002

Acts of Accession of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia to the EU.

1.5.2004

No later than 2007

OJ L 236 of 23.9.2003

Directive 2003/89/EC

25.11.2003

25.11.2004

OJ L 308 25.11.2003

Directive 2006/107/EC

1.1.2007

1.1.2007

OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006

Directive 2006/142/EC

12.1.2007

23.12.2007

OJ L 368 of 23.12.2006

Regulation (EC) No 1332/2008

20.1.2009

-

OJ L 354 of 31.12.2008

Regulation (EC) No 596/2009

7.8.2009

-

OJ L 188 of 18.7.2009

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2000/13/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

RELATED ACTS

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 January 2008 on the provision of food information to consumers [COM(2008) 40 - Not published in the Official Journal].
This Proposal for a Regular amalgamates Directives 2000/13/EC and 90/496/EEC on nutritional labelling, in order to improve levels of information and protection for European consumers.
The Proposal introduces new requirements in labelling. Mandatory information should include in particular the identity of goods, their composition and nutritional characteristics, their origin and conditions for safe use (durability, incidence and likelihood of danger to health). This information must be supplied in an honest way and should be easy for the consumer to read and understand. The minimum print size should be 3mm.
Nutritional labelling should include compulsory information such as:

  • energy value;
  • the quantity of some nutrients in the ingredients, lipids, saturated fatty acids, carbohydrates, as well as specific information on sugar and salt.

Moreover, consumers should be able to access adequate information, in particular when purchasing foodstuffs by Internet or other means of distance selling. The same goes for the presence of allergenic substances in foodstuffs, including for foodstuffs sold without packaging and meals served in restaurants.
The Member States may also adopt additional mandatory information requirements for specific categories of foodstuffs, in order to protect public health and safety and industrial and commercial property. The information envisaged must be notified as a proposal to the Commission, who may give a negative opinion.
Codecision procedure (2008/0028/COD)

USE OF LANGUAGES IN LABELLING

On 10 November 1993 the Commission adopted an interpretative communication concerning the use of languages in the marketing of foodstuffs in the light of the Court of Justice's judgment in the Peeters case [COM(93) 532 final – Official Journal C 345 of 23.12.1993].
In this communication the Commission points out that the labelling of foodstuffs for sale to the final consumer must be in an easily understood language, which generally means the official language(s) of the country of marketing. However, foreign terms or expressions easily understood by the purchaser must be allowed.

Last updated: 16.11.2010
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