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Save the date December 13th, 2016

Regulation: Foodstuffs labelling

Regulation on labelling is all the more important when it comes to labelling medicine, medical devices, cosmetics and foodstuffs. The post is about foodstuffs labelling at European level and in France.

étiquetage_foodstuff labelling_blog

EU regulations

Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 is dealing with the provision of food information to consumers, ultimate consumers or ‘mass caterers’ (restaurants, hospitals, canteens for instance). It entered into application on 13 December 2014, the obligation to provide nutrition information will apply from 13th December 2016, including the point (l) of Article 9 (1).

Foodstuffs labelling is not a sole European concern. Let’s have a look at regulations in India for instance.

If you read the Directive 2000/13/EC you will learn much about mandatory information any food manufacturer must provide. Since EU is a free trade zone, ‘detailed labelling, in particular giving the exact nature and characteristics of the product (…) enables the consumer to make his choice in full knowledge of the facts …’

Regulation and foodstuff labelling: mandatory information

As a result the EU Parliament requires a list with all mandatory information. Manufacturers should consider the provided list as a tool.

Per European regulation, labels must indicate such mentions as: the name under which the product is sold, the list of ingredients; as well as quantities or categories of ingredients, net quantity for prepacked foodstuffs, origin…

The Directive also emphasizes on one specific and essential aspect of foodstuffs labelling. No mention should make the consumer believe the foodstuff has ‘particular medical properties’. This issue is referred to as health claims and it will be dealt with in a next post.


How is foodstuff labelling organized in France

Things change for processed and prepacked food products!

Since France is country member of the European Union, the Directive 2000/13/EC applies to foodstuffs manufactured and/or sold to French consumers and mass caterers. In other words European regulation applies to foodstuffs imported by any French entities. Considering individual and households buying online, foreign manufacturers have to provide their online/remote clients with the same mandatory mentions.

Yet let us consider the case of foodstuffs labeling in France and/or sold to French consumers. Things may change for processed products!

In 2013 Pr.Serge Hercberg, president of the Programme national nutrition santé (French plan for nutrition and health launched in 2001, for more information click here http://www.mangerbouger.fr/PNNS) suggested that colored chips should be added on the packaging to help consumer do better choice. In fact his project was discussed by French Parliament during the debate regarding the Health Act (Loi Santé) about one year ago.

Such a system is already in use in UK, see Example of labelling on a packet of breakfast cereal

The French colour-coded nutrition labels should look like this.

Foodstuff labelling-étiquetage produits alimentaires

According to color chips (green, yellow, orange, pink and red) products are rated from ‘good nutritional quality’ (green) to ‘less good nutritional quality’ (red). The aim is to provide consumers with a clear, simple and easy-to-read nutritional tool. The current information system is complex and data appearing on labels are messy: small-typed, figures, percentages …

Who would blame the authorities to boost a more simply tool? At this point authorities are considering that recommendations such as ‘avoid fatty, sugar, and salty food’ are not sufficient. On the other hand manufacturers cannot write too many items on tiny labels. Could the colour-coded nutrition labels for processed foodstuffs be a better solution? Each colour indicates the nutritional quality of the product.

Furthermore the following data should remain visible and readable in order to respect the EU and French Regulations:

Visible Data

  • Calories
  • Sugars
  • Fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Salt

Readable Data

  • size of the police
  • size of the label
  • language of the buyer/user

Supermarkets and retailers

Carrefour, a French giant retailer, launched their own rules in 2014. On processed foodstuffs sold under the own distributor trademark, the company decided to picture an inverted, colored pyramid (green, blue, orange or violet) with indications on how often you can eat this biscuit or that pizza. They can be translated as eat three times daily (green), two times daily (blue), once a day (orange), and from time to time (violet). In fact the company decided to outstrip the regulation.


The initiative of the distributor was largely criticized. Moreover it was perceived as a marketing coup!


© Color coded system by Carrefour.


Latest News: ANSES (French food safety agency) reported on the feasibility of the SENS system

In their report on nutritional classification of foods, French authority concluded that ‘for the SENS system and to a lesser degree for the Modified 5C system, the availability of composition data is the limiting step, since the INCO Regulation does not make it mandatory to provide on the labelling all the data needed for applying the two algorithms. Thus, apart from the food producer, which will have determined all these necessary data, it will not be possible to determine the food class solely from the data available on the packaging from 13 December 2016.’

ANSES’s findings will soon undergo a comparative analysis and both systems will be studied ‘in nutrition terms, in light of the public health issues‘. Results are excepted in next autumn.

And now save the date and get your labelling properly designed and translated in French to target your French partners!

[i] DIRECTIVE 2000/13/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 March 2000 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs.

To download the infographic ‘the new EU food labelling rules’ click here New EU food labelling rules
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