Such a complex and diverse matters like labelling brings constantly a substantial number of contradictions when it comes to the diversity of legislation established in different levels. Lleytons counsels and advertises the issues faced by the labelling issues and examines particularly issues, which do not fall on the general scope of the problems found in the private sectors. For this purpose, the solutions to these issues are completed by the knowledge of the staff consisted of government lawyers, who also provide a great opportunity to observe the common issues faced on behalf of the public sector.
The regulation of labelling is highly extensive as it is governed in all levels of the territory. The main regulation on this matter is the Regulation No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011, which is further completed by national legislation of Real Decreto 890/2011, and also, with the regulations of the autonomous communities and local regulation.
The matters established in Regulation 1169/2011 is directed to food business operators at all stages of food chain and all foods intended for the final consumer, and moreover, foods delivered by mass caterers and catering services provided by transport undertakings. The main object of the Regulation is the high level of protection of the health and interests of the consumers by guaranteeing the circumstances of transmitting information of the products, making them ideal to make informed decisions. Another essential aim is to establish the free movement of legally produced and marketed food in the internal market.
This purpose is achieved by an open and transparent public consultation with stakeholders by examining all stages of the food information law. The Regulation emphasizes the information especially regarding the identity, composition and properties of the food, and additionally, the required information on the protection of consumers’ health, safe use of food and nutritional characteristics.
According to the Regulation, Member States should take responsibility of exercising the control of the compliance of the food information law. The infringement of the labelling rules is a wide-scoped breach in a sense that it also has an effect to the Directive 2005/29/EC on the unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices and therefore, the fines and administrative sanctions for the infringements are usually considered substantial.
The labelling of food and beverages is the key in marketing of products since it is a communication between producers and distributors of food and beverages and final consumer.
Labelling is an essential tool to enable customers to have informed decisions when it comes to buying and consuming foods and drinks. Furthermore, it allows to recognize the concrete product and its features like the origin, the type of conservation, the ingredients and nutrients.
Labelling includes statements, indications and distinctive signs which, related with the product, grants the consumer a secured purchase, conservation and safe consumption of foods and drinks in accordance with healthy diet, taking into account sanitary, economic, social, ethical and environmental matters.
The labelling is regulated by the Community-, national- and autonomous legislation, considering the general characteristics and the specific ones.
Labelling is a medium to control the security of the foods and drinks and therefore, it must meet the requirements as the readability, comprehensibility and visibility.
Among the aforementioned requirements, the labelling must produce truthful information which does not mislead the consumer and cannot confuse the consumer especially considering the characteristics of the food product, nature, identity, composition, duration, origin, provenance and the way of manufacturing or obtaining the good.
In general terms, the standards prohibit the following:
- The attribution of effects or property that the products do not have
- Indication of the particular characteristics of the product when all the similar products possess the same characteristics
- The attribution of features which prevent, treat, or cure diseases of human kind which the product does not have, in exception with the mineral waters and products intended for a special diet such as foods that lack gluten for celiac.
These prohibitions are equally applicable for the presentation of the food products, especially in a form, appearance, or packaging and for the material used for it, and the way of preparation and publicity.
The foods are defined as those products, which, before putting in the sale, cannot be modified by its content without opening or modifying the package. These could be for example, yoghurts, cereal boxes or milk cartons
The obligatory information must appear in the package in a clear form, which is readable and in Spanish. The x-height of the font size, which is defined in the Annex IV of the Regulation must be equal or greater than 1,2 mm. In case if the largest surface has an area of less than 80 cm2, the mentioned height must be equal or greater than 0,9 mm.
As included in the obligatory information, the appearance of the product must include the legal name, and if there is none, habitual or descriptive name. The ingredients must be shown in a descending order depending on the amount of weight of each ingredient, and also the substances or the products used for the manufacturing of the food and the ingredients remaining in the final product.
Any substances causing allergies or intolerances must be mentioned in this list. The omission of allergens is a common mistake and is specifically required in Article 21 of the Regulation 1169/2011.
Furthermore, the appearance must include the net quantity of the product, the date of the minimum duration or the date of expiration, considering the date of expiration is any date in which the product retains its property and is mentioned by “consumir preferentemente antes del …” following the date/month/year. In case of frozen meat and fish, the date of the freezing must appear.
The special conditions for the conservation/utilization, the name or the company name together with the address of the company responsible for the food and the country of origin or province of the food has to be also concluded, as well as the way of use, the nutritional information and the lot.
The volume of the alcohol is required in alcohol beverages which has a volume more than 1,2 % and other information.
The products without packaging must include signs, posters or any other medium, including the modern technological tools or the verbal communication.
Particularly the fruits, vegetables, tubercles or nuts packed in a way which allows the consumer to see the content, must inform about the denomination of food, net quantity, and the company.
The labelling of foods and drinks is the key in the commercialization of these products since it is a mean of communication between the producers, distributers, and final consumers. For this reason, it is important to have knowledge, comprehension and understanding in order to coordinate all the requirements according to different national and international rules, which have effect on the labelling of the products.