jamLaura Clarke of WBW Solicitors Food and Drink Team provides a recap on the EU Regulation of the provision of food and drink information to consumers (EU FIC).

This legislation came into force gradually from January 2014, and as you might guess from its title, covers the information which food and drink producers have to supply on their packaging. From 13 December 2016, producers of most pre-packaged foods have had to supply a ‘nutrition declaration’ on the pack. This is in addition to the existing requirements to list, amongst other things, the ingredients, allergy information, quantity of certain ingredients (e.g. those appearing as part of the name of the food, such as the quantity of apricots in apricot jam), storage instructions and details of the producer.

All food producers (subject to exemptions, see below) have to include in the nutrition declaration details of the energy value (calories) of  the food or drink, plus the amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrate, protein and salt.

Foodstuffs exempt from the mandatory nutrition declaration are listed in Annex V of EU FIC. Exemptions relate mainly to minimally processed foods and those with little nutritional value, such as yeast, herbs, spices, salt, vinegar and herbal teas.

A very useful exemption for small-scale food producers and farm shops is this one: ‘Food, including handcrafted food, directly supplied by the manufacturer of small quantities of products to the final consumer or to local retail establishments directly supplying the final consumer.’ This will cover circumstances where the producer is a ‘micro business’ under the EU and UK definition: fewer than 10 employees and a turnover/balance sheet total of less than £1.4M. ‘Local retail establishments’ are those in the same county as the manufacturer or in an adjoining county provided this is no more than 35 miles from the county border. So if you have a side-line of producing pork pies from your award-winning pigs, sold from your own farm shop, via the internet or in local shops, then provided you employ fewer than 10 people and your turnover is less than £1.4M you will be exempt from the requirement to provide the nutrition declaration.

Exemptions also exist for unprocessed products that comprise a single ingredient (such as milk or honey) and products which have been subjected to a maturing process with no other ingredients (likely to include smoked fish and matured meats).

Businesses that supply ingredients or consumer-ready loose food to other businesses must provide enough information for the recipients to meet their eventual obligations to caterers and consumers. This should mean in practice that you might be asked for information by your business customers and you may have an obligation to provide it.

It’s good to note that the occasional handling, preparation, storage or serving of food by private people at events such as church, school or village fairs is not covered by EU FIC, unless the activity is being carried out in the course of the person’s business – so the WI can carry on serving their cream teas!

If you would like further information about food labelling requirements or any other aspect of this area of law, please contact Laura Clarke on 01626 202404 or by email lauraclarke@wbw.co.uk.

WBW offers a full range of legal services, both locally and nationally, from an experienced team of over 170 members of staff across its offices in Newton Abbot, Torquay, Exeter and Bovey Tracey. Find out more at http://www.wbw.co.uk/.