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UK Food Labelling Regulations: What Food Producers Need to Know

2020/02/05

Adherence to food labelling regulations is more important than ever before. Businesses can be penalised, and customers can be at risk, there is no room for error!

The United Kingdom has a strict set of regulations for food labelling, designed to inform and protect consumers. Accurate, compliant labelling is crucial for food producers to get right. Consumers use the information on packaging for a range of reasons, making decisions on what to eat and drink based on their own health, religious, and moral concerns. At one end of the scale getting the labelling wrong may seem to only have trivial implications, but at the serious end, consequences can include life-threatening allergic reactions. Despite strict labelling standards about ten people a year in the UK die from anaphylaxis after eating something they are allergic to.

 

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the government department responsible for food labelling. Their remit is to use their “expertise and influence so that people can trust that the food they buy and eat is safe and honest.” The FSA website is full of information including primary legislation, regulations, guidance and training; it is the indispensable source for anyone concerned with food labelling. One particularly valuable resource is their online food labelling training, which should be retaken annually to stay current with regulations.

 

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So, the onus is on the food producer to understand and comply with regulations, and the consequences for getting it wrong can be severe. However, the realities of modern-day food production mean this seemingly simple task is a lot more complicated that it looks. Ingredients are sourced from different suppliers all over the world – if one goes out of business then a new supplier needs to be found, potentially with a different factory set-up or different ingredients. Reformulation could result from price changes or availability of key ingredients, or as a response to market or regulatory pressure, for example for lower sugar versions.

 

According to the FSA, the following things all form part of understanding and complying with food labelling legislation:

  • Ingredients: lists, quantities, and allergens
  • Food supplements and fortified foods
  • Alcoholic beverage labelling
  • Net quantity, date indications, and storage conditions
  • Product names (need to be accurate, and to account for linguistic and cultural differences in export destinations)
  • Nutrition labelling
  • Country of origin labelling
  • PARNUTS labelling (food for special nutritional purposes, such as baby formula)
  • Nutrition and health claims
  • Mandatory information and legibility
  • Protected food names (names related to a region or traditional ingredients or methods)
  • Voluntary information, national measures, and enforcement

 

Faced with this large array of things to be tracked and checked, the key to effective control of food labelling is to have a single version of the truth. This means ensuring that the category manager, the packaging designer, the copywriter, the retail account manager and everyone in between all have access to the same up-to-date, validated data. No stray spreadsheets from before the product was cost engineered, no forgetting to CC someone on an email outlining an allergen change, no problems syncing information between the PLM platform and the PIM system.

 

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The simplest way to achieve this single version of the truth is to use an integrated, end-to-end solution like 4Pack. Designed to help all departments involved in managing changes to existing products and getting new food and beverage products smoothly to market, 4Pack’s workflows integrate activity and information across Marketing, NPD, Quality, Technical, Regulatory Packaging, Logistics, Finance, Graphics and other teams internally and externally.

 

4Pack exists to help Food & Beverage manufacturers and brands of all sizes to push innovative, safer products to market across channels quickly. If you want to turbo charge your product launch process, book a demo with one of our experts.