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Food Labelling

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Food labels must have sufficient information on the label to allow the consumer to make an informed choice when purchasing food.

Most foods must by law have the following information on their labels:

  • The name of the food - The description must be accurate so that it does not mislead the consumer
  • A list of ingredients - The list must be in descending order by weight. If an ingredient is mentioned in the name then the amount contained in the food must be shown as a percentage.
  • An indication of durability. A 'use by' or 'best before' date. (See below)
  • Any special storage conditions.
  • Name and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller
  • Place of origin
  • Instructions for use
  • Allergens present - If a food contains a known allergen (there are 14 at present) it must be highlighted on the label.

'Use By' and 'Best Before' dates

There must be a 'Use By' or a 'Best Before' date on a food label.

It is illegal to sell food beyond the 'Use By' date. This is because 'Use By' dates are only applied to certain high-risk or perishable foods

It is not illegal to sell food beyond its 'best before' date. This is because the 'Best Before' dates are about the quality rather than the safety of a food.

If a complaint is made about a shop selling food that is past the 'Use By' date then an Environmental Health Officer will visit the business and take appropriate action.

Imported Food Labelling

There are particular requirements for food imported into the UK.

Labelling Guidance for Businesses

Labelling regulations apply to a wide range of businesses, not just manufacturers of pre-packed foods. For example, butchers must provide specific details about the origin of beef to their customers and declare the meat content of their burgers, steak pies and sausages etc. Bakers must declare the presence of certain colourings present in their cakes and fishmongers must clearly state the catch area of fish on sale.

Guidance on various aspects of labelling legislation can be found by clicking on the links below:

For further information about food labelling visit the Food Standards Agency website

Last modified on 01 May 2024

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