A new food labeling regulation, which revamps the entire EU regulatory framework on food information, including labeling, starts to apply from this Saturday, 13 December 2014. Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC Regulation) consolidates a number of EU food laws and establishes some new principles to provide better consumer protection in relation to food information whilst ensuring smooth functioning of the EU market.

The FIC Regulation governs all food information provided to the consumer through any commercial communication, including in particular labeling and websites. The Regulation affects all food business operators along the whole supply chain as it changes the existing provisions and introduces new ones:

  • Mandatory minimum font size for required particulars on labels to increase legibility;
  • More emphasized and available labeling of some 14 allergens and their derivatives (including nuts, gluten, soybean) for all foods including those without ingredient listing (like alcoholic beverages) and those sold loose and in restaurants;
  • Mandatory nutrition labeling for most foods as from 13 December 2016;
  • Significant changes to nutrition table including presentation of both total fat & saturated fat at the top of the nutrition table, second only to energy;
  • Extended origin labeling;
  • Clear indication of the ingredients present in the form of engineered nanomaterials (‘nano’)
  • Obligatory information about the addition of water or other ingredients, such as vegetable proteins, for meat and fish;
  • Mandatory information to be made available up-front in the case of distance selling including by phone or internet.

The FIC Regulation is fully applicable from 13 December 2014, with the exception of nutrition labeling, which will apply from 13 December 2016. Companies that were not subject to nutrition labeling under the old rules have two more years to introduce a nutrition table. Companies that displayed a nutrition table under the old rules, because they were obliged to do so when making nutrition or health claims, or displayed such information on a voluntary basis, must adapt the nutrition table in accordance with the new rules.  Importantly, the FIC Regulation also allows foods placed on the market or labelled prior to 13 December 2014 which do not comply with new requirements to be marketed until the stocks of the foods are exhausted.

Due to recent food fraud scandals throughout the EU, it is expected that there will be heightened enforcement of the FIC Regulation in the coming months to reassure consumers that they are appropriately informed about the food they consume. Finally, the FIC Regulation is not a rigid document as it provides sufficient flexibility to respond to future developments and new information requirements. We expect to see interesting developments and debates to follow in the food information area, particularly in relation to alcoholic beverages.

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Photo of Brian Kelly Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly is a partner in the London Life Sciences group and also co-chair of Covington’s Global Food Industry Group. Mr. Kelly’s practice focuses on EU food and drug regulatory law, public and administrative proceedings, internal investigations, European Union law, and product liability…

Brian Kelly is a partner in the London Life Sciences group and also co-chair of Covington’s Global Food Industry Group. Mr. Kelly’s practice focuses on EU food and drug regulatory law, public and administrative proceedings, internal investigations, European Union law, and product liability and safety. The Chambers Europe Guide to the legal profession lists Mr. Kelly as part of our “world-class [regulatory and public affairs] team and describes him as a notable practitioner who is “very ambitious, thorough with a sharp intellect”. The Chambers UK Guide quotes clients saying: “his communication and work ethic stand out, he is very hard-working and dedicated when it comes to his cases.”

Mr. Kelly’s advice on general regulatory matters across all sectors includes borderline determinations, food classifications, tissue and stem cell regulation, adverse event and other reporting obligations, manufacturing controls, labeling and promotion, pricing and reimbursement/procurement, product life cycle management (foods and medicines), nanotechnology, and anti-bribery and corruption advice. Mr. Kelly has also been advising on UK and European “Brexit” related issues including tariffs.

Mr. Kelly has also advised and co-ordinated international projects on advertising/promotion, clinical research, data protection, the regulatory status of borderline products, food/cosmetic ingredient reviews and advises on regulatory aspects of corporate/commercial deals, particularly regulatory due diligence.

Mr. Kelly is also experienced in representing clients in administrative and enforcement proceedings before regulatory authorities and in the UK and EU courts.

Mr. Kelly is an honorary lecturer at University College London.

Photo of Peter Bogaert Peter Bogaert

Peter Bogaert has a broad European life sciences practice. He has detailed regulatory expertise under EC and national laws, handles legislative and other policy assignments and provides strategic advice. He also represents life sciences companies before the European Courts in Luxembourg and in…

Peter Bogaert has a broad European life sciences practice. He has detailed regulatory expertise under EC and national laws, handles legislative and other policy assignments and provides strategic advice. He also represents life sciences companies before the European Courts in Luxembourg and in local litigation in Belgium. Mr. Bogaert’s practice covers pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, special foods and feed, cosmetics and other consumer products and he presents numerous innovative life sciences companies, including start-ups, as well as several industry associations.