What’s happening? The Food Information to Consumers Regulations (FIC) will be enforced from 13 December 2014. It seeks to rationalise the plethora of rules on general foodstuffs and nutrition labelling into one set of regulations, applied across the EU...
Its disclosure requirements are a considerable extension from the current regime. Mandatory information to be made available to consumers includes the name of the food, the list of ingredients and the country of origin for specific products. A nutrition declaration will also become mandatory on all pre-packaged food in 2016.
Changes at a glance
Under the new regulations, packaging must display mandatory information in a particular font size. This stipulation is likely to create conflict between regulatory compliance and marketing messages. In some cases a complete redesign of the packaging will be needed.
The allergen box, familiar to UK consumers, will no longer be acceptable. Instead, allergens will be indicated - using bold type, different colours or highlighting - within the main ingredient list. All food businesses will also be required to provide allergy information on unpackaged food sold in catering outlets and shops. Consumers will no longer be able to rely on the allergens box; they will have to read the ingredients list.
The FIC should reduce the risk of accidental contamination for consumers. Nonetheless, the food and drink industry could face more claims. Incorrectly labelled food could lead to an allergic reaction and the suggestion of liability against the food business operator. Such a scenario may also necessitate a product withdrawal or recall, along with the associated costs and reputational damage.
Once the regulations are in force, incorrectly labelled food and drink could lead to further action being taken against a business that is guilty of an offence. This is a significant piece of legislation for the food and drink industry and manufacturers will need to be aware of the impact on their business and take all necessary steps to protect themselves and their customers.
Mark Black, Practice Leader, Liability Risk Solutions