Wales Heads of Trading Standards

Improving Trading Standards in Wales

Penaethiaid Safonau Masnach Cymru Yn Gwella Safonau Masnach Yng Nghymru

Food labelling and composition

Food labelling and composition is controlled by Regulations made under the Food Safety Act 1990. These matters are of paramount importance to public health and well-being.

In particular, clear and honest labelling is essential for those who suffer allergies to foods such as nuts, dairy or wheat, and to those with medical conditions requiring strict regulation of diet.

The Trading Standards Service in Wales takes samples of foods for analysis and testing for composition, quality and accuracy of the labelling. Our specialist officers also provide advice and guidance to local businesses on the composition and labelling of their products.

Foods which are not up to standard are removed from sale by working in co-operation with the Food Standards Agency.

Allergy alerts

A change in the labelling law now means that packaged food will state on the label the presence of certain ingredients, that cause allergic reactions. The list of allergens covered are:

  • Cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut or their hybridised strains)
  • Crustaceans
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Milk
  • Nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan nut, Brazil nut, pistachio nut, macadamia nut and Queensland nut)
  • Celery
  • Mustard
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sulphur dioxide and Sulphites (above a set level)

There are a number of food ingredients, derived from these allergens, that are exempt from the labelling, because they have been shown not to pose a problem.

The allergens, if not already in the name of the food, have to be labelled in the ingredients list or in a special ‘allergen box’.

Frequently asked questions

I run a small shop and am confused about the labelling I should use on food.  What is required?

Prepacked food requires full labelling including the name of the food, an ingredients list, use by or best before date, manufacturer’s or importer’s name and address, storage and use instructions and nutritional labelling. It is the manufacturer’s or importer’s responsibility to ensure this labelling is satisfactory.

If you sell loose fruit and vegetables then you need only to display their name, and in the case of potatoes and melons their variety.

If you sell unwrapped meat products, including pies, pasties, burgers, sausages and sausage rolls, you must display a notice giving the meat content of each product as a percentage of the total product. Your supplier will be able to provide you with this information.

If you sell loose eggs you will need to display a notice stating their size (XL, L, M or S), their class (all retail eggs must be class A), the registration number of the packing station, their best before date (this is 28 days after the date they were laid - you must not sell them more than 21 days after the date they were laid), storage instructions (‘keep refrigerated’), their origin if they are from outside the EC and the method of farming used (free range, semi-intensive, perchery/barn or deep litter). Your supplier should provide you with this information.

If you sell any other unwrapped food, for example, cakes or bread, you only need to display a notice giving details of the additives they contain.
If you are unsure about the way you should label or describe a particular product please contact your local Trading Standards Service. You can also find guidance leaflets using the web links lower down the page.

What information should be on food labels help people eat a balanced diet?

Prepacked food must give detailed nutritional information. You should find listed the energy (k calories), protein, carbohydrate (including sugars), fat (including saturated fat), dietary fibre and sodium in the food. The label should also list all the ingredients (including additives) in descending order of weight. Where an ingredient is the main part of the food or is given special emphasis on the packaging, the percentage of that ingredient in the food must also be given.

In the case of food sold unwrapped, or for bread, cakes etc. sold in clear packaging, the retailer only has to display details of the additives included in the food.

More and more food features some sort of claim on the label. What are the rules about this?

Labels are not allowed to claim that food can treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. A few other specific claims are prohibited, but generally claims are allowed as long as they are true and do not mislead.

You should think about what the label is really saying. For example, many labels advertise food as ‘85% fat free’ and so on. Whilst this is true, it still means the food contains 15% fat. Lower fat foods may also contain more sugar, so claims should be read alongside the nutritional labelling.

The Food Standards Agency website has more information on claims and labelling. Other websites that may be of use are:

• Food Commission
• Coeliac UK
• The Anaphylaxis Campaign - Life-threatening allergies group
• Trading Standards Institute - TSI guidance for businesses.

*If you have any queries about this subject contact your local authority Trading Standards Service