What is FIC?
What is FIC?
Dr. Karen Roche, Food Regulatory Advisor with Themis Food Advisory.
Welcome to my blog.
I don’t know about you, but I get a bit addled by the colourful panels, the mouth-watering photos and lines and lines of what could be computer code for all I can see on food packaging these days.
Enter FIC stage left; the EU’s answer to our consumer woes!
So what is FIC?
FIC is the Food Information to Consumers regulation (EU REG 1169/2011).
What does it mean to the food shopper?
Basically the purpose of this regulation is to make it easier for you and I (the consumer) to read and understand the information on our food labels when we shop. This new rule will apply to ‘businesses at all stages of the food chain where their activities concern the provision of food information to consumers’ [FSAI, July 2012].
What does it mean to food companies?
For food companies it means a costly headache as they have to re-label every single product on the shelves and invest in nutritional and compositional information and perhaps shelf life testing (if not previously on the product label).
When does it come into effect?
This regulation came into effect on 13th Dec 2011 and has a three-year transition period. It is getting more press at the moment, as the rules will apply from the end of this year (13th Dec 2014) so the countdown is on.
So what is in this 46-page regulation?
A lot of detailed information on what can or can’t be displayed on a label. Lets go through some of the highlights. Well the good news is the size of the writing will be a standard 1.2mm (about Times size 8 on your computer) on a regular label; a relief to all of us optically-challenged shoppers.
It gives a list of things that are mandatory (need to know) so that when you look at a label at the front of the pack you will find the product name, the net quantity and alcohol content (if greater that 1.2%).
The information will have to be clear and legible. If sweeteners are added this will also have to be included on the front of pack beside the product name. A point to note is that the ‘best before’ (longer shelf life) or ‘use by date’ (for perishable goods) are mandatory but no longer have to be displayed at the front of the pack in the field of vision.
Allergens will be displayed differently in the new labels, no longer in a separate box, allergens and potential allergens will now have to be highlighted in bold after each ingredient in the list e.g. for pastry the ingredient list might look like this: wheat flour, butter (Milk), sunflower oil, salt, pepper.
Country of origin is an important one for Irish shoppers as they can be misled by pictorial representations of a flag, map or products with an Irish-sounding name. Currently origin labelling is only mandatory for certain products such as beef and beef products (following the BSE crisis and horsemeat scandals), fish, honey, olive oil and fresh fruit and vegetables. For other foods it only becomes mandatory if ‘its absence may mislead the consumer’ as to the true origin of the product. Under new rules mandatory origin labelling will be required for all fresh meat of poultry, pigs, sheep and goats by 1st April 2015. The new regulation requires the EC Commission to set out rules where the country of origin or place of provenance is given particularly if the product is processed in one country and the main ingredient is from a different country. This should allow more transparency to the consumer.
Up until now nutrition labelling has been voluntary but if a nutrition claim is made e.g. ‘low in fat’, ‘low in sugar’, then the nutritional information has to be provided. The new legislation includes guidelines for nutrition labelling which does not become mandatory until Dec 13th 2016. However if nutritional information is currently on a product then this information can only remain on the packaging after Dec 2014 if it complies with the new regulations. So, in two years’ time nutritional information will be mandatory for most pre-packaged foodstuffs. The nutritional information will be displayed per 100g or 100ml in a prescribed format similar to the listing we already see except the word ‘sodium’ is replaced with ‘salt’.
Other mandatory information includes rules covering misleading labelling, misleading descriptions, list of ingredients, quantitative ingredient declaration (QUID), date marking, storage, instructions for use, product specific indications and marketing claims.
So, by the end of December the new labels should be on our pre-packaged foods. This new regulation is good news for the already time-starved, stressed-out food shopper. The information will help consumers to make informed decisions on the food products (and producers!!) they choose and level the playing field for Irish food manufacturers.
It goes without saying that Themis Food Advisory will be only too happy to assist any companies aiming to meet this looming deadline!
FSAI, July 2012. Overview of changes to Food Labelling introduced under the New Food Information Regulation. Issue 1.
For more information check out the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) website for national guidelines,
For a copy of the Food Information to Consumer Regulation 1169/2011 follow the link below