Numbers, logos, labels, dates, codes – there’s a lot of important product information on the packaging that our food comes in. We’ll be taking a closer look at some of this information.
Food labels contain both voluntary information and information that is mandatory by law. Some mandatory information is regulated in the European Union in accordance with Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011. From the name of the product to the list of substances that may cause allergies or intolerances, and from the list of ingredients to nutritional labelling, best-before or use-by dates and information on origin – all this information must be included on the label. Product claims that mislead the consumer or promise a medicinal effect, for example, are not permitted.
While food manufacturers are obliged to list the ingredients in their product, they do not have to indicate the exact quantity of each ingredient — unless, that is, the ingredient is visually represented, i.e. named or featured in an image on the packaging. For example, if the product is called ‘marinated seeded bell peppers, stuffed with cream cheese’, the proportion of bell peppers and cream cheese must be indicated on the packaging. Ingredients are generally listed on the label by descending order of weight. It’s often useful to know that the ingredient listed first makes up the largest proportion by weight.
What we probably don’t immediately think about when it comes to food labelling are the special provisions that are put in place in times of crisis, e.g. during wars, conflicts or global health pandemics. If a crisis causes a shortage of raw materials (as is currently the case with sunflowers) and the producer has to temporarily alter the composition of their product, they can do so without having to change the entire packaging stock. That said, all product information must still be visible to the consumer, as required by the European Commission.