Food information, origin labelling and health and nutrition claims
Consumers make their own choices and need sufficient and correct information to support their decisions. Food labelling gives consumers information about the ingredients, origin, production method and proper use of the product. The information also enables consumers to avoid expired food and helps them to choose healthier products. Nutrition and health claims state that a foodstuff has beneficial nutritional or health properties.
Legislation on mandatory food information
Legislation on mandatory food information is almost fully harmonised EU legislation. Mandatory labelling requirements for all foodstuffs are laid down in the Food Information Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council. It applies to all foods intended for final consumers, including non-prepacked food and foods served to consumers by professional kitchens. Requirements concerning information on non-prepacked food are determined at the national level.
Nutrition labelling gives consumers information about the nutritional composition of the food, its energy value and the amounts of nutrients it contains. Nutrition labelling enables consumers to compare different products and choose foodstuffs that are appropriate for their own health and well-being.
The EU Food Information Regulation (EU) Nr 1169/2011 combines general food labelling requirements and nutrition labelling requirements. In principle, the regulation makes nutrition labelling mandatory.
Further information on mandatory food information:
Origin labelling of food
Food packaging must indicate further details on the country of origin of food if failure to do so could mislead the buyer in terms of the true country of origin. The purpose of this is to ensure that the buyer does not assume that food is of Finnish origin if it has been manufactured in another country or imported to Finland.
The country of origin must also be indicated if this is required by special legislation. This kind of mandatory requirements concerning the origin are applicable to e.g. meat (bovine, pig sheep, goat and poultry), fish, vegetables, honey and olive oil.
There are national provisions concerning the country of origin labelling of meat used as a food ingredient, milk, and milk used as an ingredient in milk products in prepackaged foods manufactured in Finland (Decree of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry 218/2017). There are also national provisions concerning the country of origin labelling of meat used as an ingredient in a meal served in a restaurant (Decree of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry 154/2019).
If the country of origin of food is indicated and it differs from the country of origin of the primary ingredient, the country of origin of the primary ingredient must also be indicated, or a statement ‘(name of the primary ingredient) do/does not originate from (the country of origin or the place of provenance of the food)’ must be added. Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 2018/775 laying down rules for indicating the country of origin of the primary ingredient of food will apply from 1 April 2020.
Nutrition and health claims
Nutrition and health claims concerning food mean claims that highlight properties related to human nutrition or health.
Common rules on claims that can be made on food have been laid down by EU law. The main principle is that a consumer may not be misled by false promises, or frightened. Common rules also facilitate competition and free movement of goods.
Provisions on the nutrition and health claims used in the labelling, presentation or advertising of food are laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on nutrition and health claims made on foods.
Nutrition claim means a claim that refers to the beneficial nutritional content of the food. Authorised health claims are presented in the Annex to the Regulation on nutrition and health claims and the amendments to it.
Health claim means a claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health.
The main principle for health claims is that they may not be used until the scientific substantiation for the claims has been approved. Scientific substantiation is assessed by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA. After this, the European Commission issues a regulation that either authorises or rejects the claim.
Health claims that are included in the lists of authorised claims referred to in Articles 13 and 14 of the Regulation on nutrition and health claims may be used in the labelling, advertising or other presentation of food.
The European Commission maintains a register of authorised and unauthorised claims. Certain claims are also waiting for the Commission’s final decision, which means that they can still be used in marketing food.
Anne Haikonen, Senior Ministerial Adviser
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Food Department, Food Safety Unit Telephone:0295162438