New food labelling regulations adopted in the European Union

Man looking at two bottles of olive oil food labelling Print publication


New food labelling rules have been adopted which are intended to ensure that the origin of the primary ingredient in food can be clearly identified. The new rules aim to promote a high level of transparency, providing consumers with clear information about the origin of food sold in the EU.

Food producers will have to give clear information about the origin of the primary ingredient if that is different to the origin of the food. ‘Primary ingredient’ is to be interpreted as an ingredient or several ingredients of a food that represent more than 50 per cent. of that food or which are usually associated with the name of the food by the consumer. The rules have been drafted to be flexible because of concerns that the origin of an ingredient can change for many reasons and the label cannot be expected to change every time. Therefore, the use of a general statement that the primary ingredient does not originate from the country of origin will be allowed.

In terms of labelling and packaging, wherever there is mention of place of origin, either in words or pictures, there will also have to be mention of the origin of the main ingredient, if that is different. Whoever is responsible in the supply chain for labelling a product’s country of origin will clearly be affected by the new rules. However the entire supply chain preceding the labelling of the product will now be subject to a greater emphasis on transparency and tracking in order to be able to comply with the rules.

WM Comment

The new legislation will apply from 1 April 2020 and the transitional period of nearly two years gives an indication that the required changes are expected to be significant for some food operators. It is hard to predict how Brexit will affect implementation of the rules in the UK. Whether or not the UK chooses to implement the rules, food operators with supply chains that stretch into the EU will need to be aware of how the rules will affect them.