The UK has some of the most comprehensive food packaging laws found anywhere in the world, and while some will see them as excessive, they serve several very important purposes. In this article, we’re going to look at why it’s essential that food is labelled and packaged correctly, and what business owners must do if they’re to stay on the right side of the law.
Important: This is intended as an introductory guide. Full details are available on the gov.uk website, including specific lists of allergens and warnings that must be present.
First and foremost, food labelling legislation is about product safety. Many thousands of people in the UK have allergies and intolerances towards certain ingredients, and they must be able to identify any foods that contain them. In some cases these ingredients can cause mild discomfort, but in others they could be life threatening. In addition, labelling is about giving consumers a good understanding of what they’re eating, so that they can be informed about their dietary choices.
Any food being sold by a business needs to be appropriately labelled. If you’re producing the food yourself then you must label it properly, and if you’re selling it, then similarly you need to make sure you’re selling products that meet the necessary legal requirements. However, if you’re running a catering business, or you’re selling food loose, then the requirements are slightly lower. Or you simply need to have information available when/if requested.
Generally, packaging should be telling a customer everything they need to know about the food they’re consuming, from ingredients to producer details and weights. Crucially, all of this information has to be clear and easy to read. It must not be in any way misleading and it should be permanently attached to the product. Also, anyone should be able to understand what it says.
It’s also very important to note that there are 12 food types that have additional special requirements in terms of labelling, which includes things like alcohol, meats, water and more. As a result it is essential that anyone involved in the labelling of products is fully educated as to the legal requirements.
Certain businesses must also include nutritional information on their food packaging. If your business has more than 10 employees or turns over more than £1.4 million, then you must show this nutritional information. Those that sell direct to consumers or deal only locally are not required to do this. Nutritional information involved things such as calorie content, and the content of certain vitamins and minerals. Again, official advice should be consulted to understand exactly what information should be contained here.
For training on food hygiene, including the various requirements placed on pre-packaged food, then consider the Level 2 Food Hygiene certificate. Designed for both employers and employees, it covers all of the basics of food packaging law, and is recognised as an industry standard. Virtual College is pleased to be able to offer this course as an online option.
Click here to find out more.