Food labeling has become a real discipline whose expertise is a key element in granting that the products manufactured by food businesses are not penalized, blocked or withdrawn from the market, with countless and obvious economic effects.
Food labels are the result of regulations that vary from country to country: they help food operators to quote all mandatory and optional wordings on the labels, and give instructions not only on the content but also on allowed texts, graphics and relationship between its items.
The purpose of this legislation is to provide the final consumer with an immediate and transparent tool that ensures that the product is in line with current food standards of that country. In fact, EU Regulation no. 1169/2011 defines the food label as “any brand or trade mark, sign, image or other written, printed, stamped graphic representation that is embossed or imprinted on the packaging or on a food container or accompanying said packaging or container”.
How to read food labels in Italy and the EU: compulsory and optional items
Clarity, readability (character and size), ease of reading (graphics) and indelibility are the requirements that food labels must have. Based on EU Regulation no. 1169/2011, the manufacturer must provide some information, while other information such as claims, recipes and marketing texts is optional.
The label of a pre-packaged food must indicate the sale name, the list of ingredients, the date of minimum durability or the expiry date as well as the name, company name or registered trademark of the manufacturer or seller having their seat in the EU. Obviously, it is necessary to ensure that product data such as net weight or nominal quantity, actual alcoholic strength (required for beverages with > 1.2% alcohol content), storage and use -where appropriate- are reported. Finally, any label not only states the quantity of certain ingredients (or categories of ingredients), but also any ingredients or processing aids that are still present in the final product and that may cause allergies or intolerances. A specific article is dedicated to the nutrition declaration (which became mandatory after the implementation of Reg. 1169/2011); you can find it here.
Food labels in the world
Each country has its own legislation or regulations shared with other countries (such as Europe or the Gulf Countries) to determine which are the rules to follow to write up a correct food label. Labels are communication tools and are controlled at every stage of distribution, especially when clearing customs. Irregularities or non-conformities may involve goods blocking, thus resulting in product destruction or withdrawal, or corrective actions and/or administrative sanctions. Each of these events involves both economic damage and brand damage. Therefore, the labeling stage needs to be given the utmost care by recognizing its peculiarities according to the country of destination.
The Labeling and Regulatory Division of Mérieux NutriSciences offers its labeling service in over 60 countries. An international team of regulatory experts resorts to both the Italian branch and Mérieux NutriSciences worldwide network: it is constantly updated on international standards and guidelines to be applied in each country. Learn more about Label Compliance Services, or contact us for more information.