Food labelling and compliance – what you need to know

You’ve recognised your vision and shaped your creation, you’ve tested it on your family and friends (they loved it of course); You might even have hit the streets with it, to make sure you have taken on board the feedback on the best flavour, presentation, size, and price. You now need to think about your packaging and food labelling, if you haven’t already started to do so. It’s not just the colour, typography, texture, size and shape you need to consider; there are also regulations and guidelines that you will be expected to adhere to.

Dressing your product accordingly

Product labels are the hardest working part of any point of sale material. Not only do they need to be eye catching, stand out from competitors and emphasise your product philosophy, but they also have to comply with all of the food standards agencies regulations.

Whether you are selling in a supermarket or just at the local farm shop, your food labelling has a legal requirement to comply with the current legislation on selling produce in the UK.

The label needs to display the following information.

  • Name of the food
  • List of ingredients
  • Ingredients or processing aids causing allergies or intolerances that are stated in the 14 Allergens
  • Quantity of certain ingredients or categories of ingredients
  • Net quantity of the food
  • Date of minimum durability or the ‘use by’ date
  • Special storage conditions and/or conditions of use
  • Name or business name and address of the food business operator
  • Country of origin or place of provenance
  • Instructions for use where it would be difficult to make appropriate use of the food in the absence of such instructions
  • The alcohol strength by volume for beverages containing more than 1.2 % of alcohol, by volume
  • Nutritional declaration

Getting the best figure

As a small company, it can be hard to come up with accurate nutritional guidelines to display on your food labelling.

You can either…

Use websites which access the nutritional database, where you simply add the list of ingredients and weights and it will calculate you a fairly accurate estimate of the calories etc that the product contains. This is a great method of getting the content calculated in a fast and inexpensive way. However, not all products can be calculated like this, the more processes involved in the manufacture of the product, the harder it will be for this to provide an accurate result.


If your product is coated in something, fried or salted, the best way to get an accurate figure would be to have a lab analyse your product. This is a more expensive route than calculating it yourself as it might also take a couple of weeks to get the results back, however it will at least give you very accurate results.

Toeing the line

When it comes to displaying nutritional information, it is always provided in 100g, although many companies also choose to add the calories per portion to make it simpler to understand.

Most food manufacturers feature energy, fat (including saturated fat), sugar and salt on the front of their packets in addition to the list of ingredients and nutritional information on the back. Some choose to also display this as a percentage of the recommended daily allowance for an adult so they can inform the customer of how it contributes towards a “balanced diet”. This information can then be coloured-coded in either red, amber or green, which makes up the recently introduced “traffic light system’.

Traffic lights for food labelling

If you are using the traffic light colours for your nutritional information, here’s how they are worked out.

Red products are those that should be eaten sparingly as they are considered an unhealthy option.

Red is used…

  • If the fat content is higher than 17.5g per 100g
  • If the Saturated fat is higher than 5g per 100g
  • If the sugar is higher than 22.5g per 100g
  • If the salt is higher than 1.5g per 100g

Green products are those that can be eaten often as they are considered a healthy option.

Green is used…

  • If the fat content is lower than 3g per 100g
  • If the Saturated fat is lower than 1.5g per 100g
  • If the sugar is lower than 5g per 100g
  • If the salt is lower than 0.03g per 100g

For anything in between, amber is used. These are products that are fine to eat on a daily basis but are still a product that should be consumed in moderation, as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Ask a safe pair of hands

Your labelling not only needs to look great, but also needs to be safe and comply with the regulations. This guidance is a general overview and should not be relied upon, so it’s important to seek professional help to ensure you’re complying with the laws.

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David RiceCreative Director

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