Naming food products

How to display the legal name for your food product.

You must display a legal name for your food product. The legal name is different to the marketing name. It must not mislead the consumer.

Some types of food product have legal names, known as reserved descriptions, that you must use if the product meets certain conditions.

For example, you must call your product ‘instant coffee’ if it:

  • is solid coffee extract, such as coffee granules
  • contains at least 95% coffee
  • contains only natural substances created during the coffee extraction process

You must not call a product instant coffee unless it meets these conditions.

Some food names are registered on the EU protected food name register. You must not use these names unless your product meets the conditions for the name.

Customary and descriptive food names

For a food product that doesn’t already have a legal name, you can use a customary name or a descriptive name.

A customary name is one that consumers in parts of the UK generally accept as the name of the food without it needing further explanation (such as ‘toad-in-the-hole’ or ‘bakewell tart’).

A descriptive name says what the product is, for example ‘macaroni in a cheese sauce’.

Using a different ingredient

If you use an ingredient that’s different to what consumers expect in a product, you must make this clear by either:

  • including the ingredient as part of the product’s name
  • stating the ingredient close to the product’s name on the label

For example, if a pesto sauce has been made with parsley instead of the traditional basil, the product must either be:

  • called ‘parsley pesto sauce’
  • have the ingredient ‘parsley’ stated next to or directly under the product name

Displaying the information

You must give this information using a font that is at least 75% of the height of the food name and has an x-height of at least 1.2 mm.

Find out how to display this information on food products.

Freezing and other treatments

You must tell the consumer if a food has been treated or is in a physical form that they should know about when buying it. For example, if it’s ground, powdered, refrozen, freeze-dried, quick-frozen, concentrated or smoked.

Defrosted products

If a food has been frozen, defrosted and then put on sale, you should tell consumers this by using the word ‘defrosted’.

Temporarily frozen products

You don’t need to tell the consumer if the food was frozen as part of the production process. For example, you don’t need to say when food has been temporarily frozen either to:

  • control parasites (to comply with food hygiene regulations)
  • be sliced very thinly

You don’t need to label a product as ‘defrosted’ if only certain ingredients in the final product were frozen or if defrosting doesn’t affect the safety or quality of the food.

Displaying the information

Give information of freezing and other treatments either:

  • as part of the name
  • close to the name on the label (for example next to or directly underneath it)

Label foods treated with ionising radiation with the words ‘irradiated’ or ‘treated with ionising radiation’.

Published 5 January 2017