Quantity labelling changes: guidance to the requirements of prepacked food since 13 December 2014.
Food information to consumers: quantity labelling
Since 13 December 2014 the rules on quantity labelling of pre-packaged foods have changed. Businesses must comply with the mandatory quantity labelling requirements of EU Regulation No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC) which applies directly to UK businesses.
The FIC quantity labelling requirements are applicable to those packaged foods intended for sale to the final consumer or mass caterer above 5 g or 5 ml. Packaged food displaying the ℮-mark will also be subject to quantity labelling requirements laid out in the Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/659).
What’s changed since 13 December 2014?
- a new universal quantity labelling rule which requires weight or volume to be labelled, will apply to all packaged foods of 5 g or 5 ml or more
- the former national exemptions for small packages or specific products have been revoked
- the former national rules on quantity marking of foods have been retained only where they apply to loose foods, foods sold in open containers, foods sold for direct sale or certain wholesale transactions
- non ℮-marked packaged foods are no longer required to meet the quantity labelling rules under the Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006 (PGR)
- foods which are normally sold by number do not need to mark weight or volume, provided that the number is marked or can be seen and counted from outside the packaging
- foods which are sold in a liquid medium must also label the drained net weight of the food
- for glazed frozen foods the net weight should be exclusive of the ice glaze
Conflicting or overlapping national rules on quantity labelling have been revoked to take account of FIC and are laid out in the Weights and Measures (Food) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/2975). The quantity rules of FIC are enforced under the Weights and Measures Act 1985 in the same way as the national rules that they are replacing.
Packaged foods using the ℮-mark will continue to be subject to the more detailed quantity labelling requirements laid out in the PGR. Packages which are not e-marked and which fall within the scope of the PGR must still comply with the three packers rules but are not required to meet the additional quantity labelling requirements under PGR.
In addition to quantity labelling there are other food labelling requirements which may apply under FIC and guidance on this has been produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Quantity labelling requirements
All packaged foods of 5 g or 5 ml or more (except herbs and spices where there is no minimum threshold) are required to comply with FIC.
These packages must display:
- the net quantity (g, kg, ml or l) directly on the package or an attached label
- drained net weight and net weight for foods packed in a liquid medium
Quantity information must:
- be accurate, clear and easy to understand
- be labelled in the same field of vision as name of food and alcoholic strength
- not be misleading
Packages below 5 g or 5 ml are exempt from these requirements.
These are packages which contain a number of individual prepacked items which are to be sold as one package eg a multipack bag of crisps has a large outer package with a number of smaller ones inside it.
Packages containing two or more prepacked items of the same product and same quantity must display the net quantity of each individual item and the total number of items eg 4 x 50 g. For those multipacks where the total number of individual items can be clearly seen from the outside and where at least one quantity declaration can be clearly seen, the net quantity and number of items do not need to be displayed on the outer packaging.
These are packages which contain a number of individual prepacked items which are not classed as units of sale.
Packages containing two or more individual prepacked items which are not regarded as units of sale must display the total net quantity and the number of individual items eg. 4 = 200 g.
Mass or volume?
The FIC requires:
- solid food to be labelled with net mass (g or kg)
- liquid food to be labelled with net volume (ml or l)
There are a number of foods that do not follow this rule and instead have an established trade practice. The new Food Regulations 2014 will continue to allow the existing trade practice of certain liquid foods to be sold by weight and certain solid foods to be sold by volume, in the absence of more specific EU or UK rules.
In the UK, liquid honey is traditionally sold by weight and the requirement for packaged honey of 5 g or more to be labelled with net weight will continue to apply.
Net weight or number?
Packaged foods that are usually sold by number are exempted from net weight labelling, provided that the number of items can be clearly seen and easily counted from the outside. If this is not possible, then the number of items must be labelled on the package.
Weights and Measures (Food) (Amendment) Regulations 2014
The Food Regulations 2014 amend national legislation covering the sale of packaged foods to remove rules which will be directly applied by FIC. These national laws were made under Part IV of the Weights and Measures Act 1985 and consist of the:
- Weights and Measures Act 1963 (Cheese, Fish, Fresh fruit and Vegetables, Meat and Poultry) Order 1984 (SI 1984/1315) as amended
- Weights and Measures (Miscellaneous Foods) Order 1988 (SI 1988/2041) as amended
- Weights and Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) Order 1988 (SI 1988/2039) as amended
Other national weights and measures law which have amended are, the:
- Weights and Measures (Quantity Marking and Abbreviations of Units) Regulations 1987 (SI 1987/1538) as amended
- Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/659) as amended
More specific information on the Food Regulations 2014 is available in the accompanying guidance notes.
As the Food Regulations 2014 only detail amendments to national legislation, consolidations of the secondary legislation have been produced. These are for guidance purposes and have no no legal standing.