Food labelling e-learning course
General principles and responsibilities

General principles and responsibilities

A snapshot showing a number of claims such as 'new', 'suitable for vegetarians', 'no artificial preservatives' etc.

Food information is intended to protect the health and interests of consumers and to achieve the free movement of legally produced foods in the EU.

Everyone in the supply chain has some responsibility for providing food information and making sure it is accurate and not misleading.

General principles

Food information helps consumers make safe, informed choices. Good information means people can take into account health, economic, environmental, social and ethical considerations. It also supports the free movement of legally produced foods in the EU, protecting the honest trader.

Food information (including advertising and all aspects of food presentation) must be accurate, clear and easy to understand. It must not mislead people about the characteristics of food, including by suggesting that a food:

  • has special characteristics when these are in fact shared by all similar foods, for example claiming that a pork chop is 'gluten-free' or that orange juice is 'suitable for vegetarians'
  • contains a normally expected ingredient when this has, in fact, been substituted by another

Responsibilities

The business under whose name the food is marketed is primarily responsible for the food information unless that business is not established in the EU, in which case the first importer into the EU has the responsibility. However, even businesses that don't affect the information shouldn't supply food where they suspect the information is non-compliant.

Any changes made to the food information must not mislead or reduce consumer protection. They are the responsibility of the business making the changes.

Businesses that supply ingredients or consumer-ready loose food to other businesses must provide enough information for the recipients to meet the eventual obligations to caterers and consumers.

When consumer-ready prepacked food is not marketed directly to the consumer, the required food information can be provided in commercial documents. However, the legal name of the food, the durability date, the storage/usage conditions and the business name and address must also appear on the external packaging of the prepacked foods. This also applies when prepacked food is intended for caterers to use in dish preparation.