This article is written to meet the following sections of the Standards:

BRCGS Food Safety Issue 85.2 Product labelling
9.4 Product legality (traded products)
BRCGS Packaging Issue 67.4 Product legality (traded products)
BRCGS Agents & Brokers Issue 3
4.5 Product legality and labelling
BRCGS Storage & Distribution Issue 410.3.4.3 Legal labelling
FSSC22000 Version 5.12.5.2 Product labelling
IFS Food Version 74.3.4 Legal labelling
SQF Edition 92.4.1.1 Legislation

Inaccurately printed packaging or putting the wrong product in the pack, are the main causes of recall. Which is why, ensuring that product labelling is correct is essential.

The purpose of this section of the Standard is to ensure that any written or pictorial information provided on packaging, meets the legislation – in at least the country in which it will be sold.

Information sources

To ensure that labelling is legal, the company must have a source of legal information and there must be a system that ensures that this information is kept up-to-date.

This can be achieved through trade association memberships, industry subscriptions or group regulatory departments.

This means, that if your company exports product to other countries, you will need to understand the labelling requirements for those countries.

Information for consumer regulations (FIR)

In the EU and UK we work to FIR (Food Information Regulations), which defines what consumer facing information must be legally provided. This means that there are strict rules about what information must be on the packaging if the product is to be sold retail – direct to the consumer.

Where the product is not sold direct to the consumer, the legal requirements are not as ‘strict’ or at least they’re not enforced in the same way. The law is in place to protect the consumer, and to stop them from being misled.

If you’re not producing a consumer product, but rather selling a product which is sold for further processing, then the information you supply in your specification is your ‘label’. And therefore, the rules are slightly different.

However, your specification still has to be legal because the information you provide on it – will be used to create consumer labelling.

Minimum labelling requirements

The standard for legal labelling can be broken down into three main parts:

  • Labelling must meet legal requirements for the country of use.
  • Labelling must include safe handling, display, storage, preparation and use.
  • Verification of information.

Labelling must meet legal requirements for the country of use

As we’ve said – the labelling must meet the legal requirements for the country where the product is to be sold. Therefore, you need to be aware of the applicable laws.

This means you need copies of the legislation of the relevant countries, and you’d need to either:

  • Be able to translate them.
  • Have had them translated.
  • Have a specialist third-party who provide the legislative advice.

Labelling must include safe handling, display, storage, preparation and use.

This is the information that you give the customer to explain to them how they should handle your product. For example, this would include:

  • Food labelling warnings – such as allergen labelling.
  • Safe handling – this would be warnings such as ‘this product may be hot’ (you may have seen this type of warning on coffee).
  • How to store the product, e.g. cool and dry conditions, in the fridge, in the freezer.
  • How long to store it, this will include the best before or use by date, and if it can be frozen – how long it can be stored frozen for.
  • How long to display it for – this would be the ‘display until’ date (how long it can be kept on the shelves for and if it’s not sold within this time – it must be removed).
  • Preparation and use – this would include instructions for how the consumer should prepare the product to eat, so a typical example of this would be cooking instructions.

Verification of information

The information provided on the label, or specification must be accurate. And to ensure that this is the case, there must be a process of checking, prior to approval of the information.

Any calculations such as ingredient declarations and QUID must be checked before they’re used in the pack copy. Then they must be checked against when they’re transferred to the artwork, during the development of the artwork and then again when the information is transferred to site systems.

Where nutritional information is provided, this will need checking before it’s added to the pack copy and during the artwork process.

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Validation

Where labelling includes cooking instructions, this information must be validated.

Validation trials should be conducted in different appliances to make sure that variation of cooking is considered, such as gas, electric and fan ovens.

The time and temperature combination needs to achieve at least a pasteurisation cook, to make it safe to eat. And, the trials need to prove that the time and temperature combination was achieved.

This may require data logging of the product, to prove that the product was held at the required temperature for the required amount of time.

Worst-case

The trials should always be carried out at worst-case as well. Which means where a time or temperature range is given to the customer, the lowest temperature and the shortest time should be used in the trials.

Consumer use

Consideration must also be given, where there’s a potential for the consumer to do something different with the product. For example, if the product could be barbequed, rather than cooked in a typical oven – then the instructions must be validated on the BBQ as well.

The process for the cooking instructions trials and validation must be included in the product development procedure.

TestingTesting

Samples of the cooked products will also need to be sent for lab testing to prove that they meet cooked micro standards. Make sure records of the cooking instruction trials and validations are retained for audit.

Responsibilities

The company is responsible for completing the legal sign-off checks. Except, where the checks are performed by:

  • A third-party, and this is agreed in the third-party contract.
  • The customer, and this is agreed in the customer contract.
  • The customer for customer branded product, and therefore, it’s accepted that the customer is responsible for legal labelling.

Customer-specific labelling requirements

Where the customer has specific requirements or rules for labelling (including completion of customer format specifications) there must be a procedure that details:

  • What the requirements or rules are.
  • How the requirements are addressed, including responsibilities.
  • How the requirements are verified.

Trademarks

Where the manufacturer’s trademarks or logos are applied to packaging materials of customers products, this must be formally agreed between the relevant parties.

First deliveries

When a change is made to printed packaging, goods-in staff must check that the correct version of the packaging has been delivered.

This should include checking the version number of the packaging against a master artwork reference.

Review

There must be a process in place to ensure that labelling information is reviewed whenever changes occur to:

  • The formulation.
  • Materials used or the suppliers.
  • The country of origin of the materials.
  • Relevant legislation.

Labelling must be up-to-date at all times. No changes must occur, prior to the labelling being updated – as it could have allergen implications and cause product to be recalled.

This review, directly links to the review section for specifications. Where a specification is updated, the pack copy must be updated and therefore, any relevant artwork and labelling must be updated too.

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Have your say…

3 thoughts on “Ensuring that your product meets the legal labelling requirements

  1. I wonder about validation “cooking instruction” on labelling. My company produced “red curry paste” in glass jar and has cooking instruction about how to use/ prepare with water ratio, then boil and fill meat or vegetable, boiling again before for serving. This means that my company has to validate cooking instruction? What we do concern? Microbial?

    Kind regards and thank you so much,

    1. Hi, Yes the main point of the validation is to prove that there is no microbial risks with the product following the cooking instructions. Kassy

  2. Thank you for your advice.

    However, our product is only curry paste without meat or vegetable but detail in cooking instruction stated boil/ mix with meat or vegetable. So when validate this cooking instruction we have to put meat/ vegetable also before take a sample to lab micro testing or validate without meat/vegetable, which one is correct?

    Kind regards,
    Suwadee

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