Press release

UK wins food fight

Food labelling will be clearer, simpler and more honest following heavy lobbying in Europe by the UK.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The victory means it will be far easier for consumers to know what’s in the food they’re buying.

Following a key vote today, the EU agreed to make it compulsory for manufacturers and retailers to clearly state:

  • The country of origin of fresh and frozen meat;
  • If any of the main ingredients in foods claiming British origin are actually imported;
  • If there is more than five per cent water content in cuts of meat such as bacon;
  • Nutritional labelling on the back of packs;
  • The types of vegetable oils used - such as palm oil;
  • Information in an agreed minimum sized font;
  • Allergen information for unpackaged food, including in restaurants; and
  • High caffeine drinks will require additional labelling.

The EU has also agreed:

  • To make it easier for alcohol companies to voluntarily include calorie information;
  • To set out voluntarily criteria for front of pack nutrition labelling on pre-packed food and drink; and
  • To enable voluntary provision of calorie information in out of home settings.

Britain has also protected its traditional practice of selling by numbers - such as a dozen bread rolls or eggs - and imperial measures, from EU plans to require metric weights on all products, thanks to strong lobbying.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“We’ve fought long and hard for more honest labelling so that consumers can make up their own minds about what they eat. Shoppers will now be absolutely sure that if meat claims to be British, it will be British - reared to the high standards they’d expect.
“We’ve also protected what we already hold dear. Selling eggs or bread rolls by the dozen, and using imperial measures like pints, are great British traditions that we all know and love, and there was no way I was going to let them be put at risk.”

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said

“We have led the way in nutritional labelling, pioneering voluntary labelling in the UK

“This regulation will now ensure that everyone will have the information they need to make an informed choice about what they eat and help them make healthier choices.” 

For further media enquiries about food labelling please call the Defra Press Office on 020 7238 6092.

For further media enquiries on nutritional labelling please call the Department of Health Newsdesk on 020 7210 5221.

The rules also pave the way for compulsory country of origin labelling of meat products such as sausages and meat pies as well as a range of other products including cheese. The EU has agreed to consider these within three years.
Alcohol companies could not include calorie information on products before the Regulation because it would have triggered a requirement for a full nutrition declaration.  With a glass of wine having the same calories as a bag of crisps and a pint of lager having the same calories as a small sausage roll this will help consumers keep their beer bellies in check.

The new date marking guidance to cut food waste will continue to apply.

Published 30 September 2011