A Campden BRI survey, commissioned by labelling standards firm GS1 UK, analysed five samples each across four food categories – prepared ready meals, meat, confectionery and flour & bakery.
Only four of the 20 products tested complied with FIR, with a further four requiring minor changes to reach it.
The EU’s Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIC) will be known as the Food Information Regulation (FIR) when it is incorporated into UK law and becomes effective on December 13 2014.
Gary Lynch, ceo at GS1 UK, said: “Compliance with FIC is proving to be a complex process for industry, as it comprises many different areas and can involve multiple teams and in some cases thousands of products, each with different size labels and different requirements specific to the ingredient type.”
Delays and contingencies
To help avoid delays at printers and ensure contingencies are tackled should final labelling errors be found, food firms should aim to be compliant long before the December 13 deadline, Lynch added.
The survey revealed three common labelling issues and misconceptions in the products tested.
First, food businesses were confused by the changes to country of origin labelling, the report stated.
Requirements could vary in accordance with the product type and ingredients and legislation following FIR could change the current understanding of what is required, it warned. This posed a particular challenge for meat businesses – none of the statements used on products tested were found to be fully compliant.
One partially met the new requirements, as it gave the place of rearing but not of slaughter, the others gave some indication of origin but did not have any of the new mandatory statements on them.
The new regulations require the places of rearing and slaughter to be labelled along with an identification system that enables traceability back to a batch of animals. Where meat has been obtained from animals born, reared and slaughtered in one EU Member State then the labelling of places of rearing and slaughtering may be replaced by ‘origin’.
Food manufacturers were also confused by the changes to the declaration of nutrition information and multilingual labelling, GS1 UK said.
The four compliant products were part of large brand owners’ product ranges, Campden BRI stated in the survey report.
‘Have to be early adopters’
“This is probably because the number of products they sell means they have to be early adopters in order to get all their lines converted in time,” it added. “It can take six months from deciding to change a label to getting it changed and ready for use.”
Meanwhile, GS1 UK and digital content provider Brandbank is planning a roadshow, visiting food businesses to help them become compliant by the December deadline.
The roadshow, supported by Leatherhead Food Research, will help firms understand the key impacts and changes of FIR and create a comprehensive action plan.
The tour, which will also help firms understand the legal and commercial implications of non-compliance, will visit London, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Norwich and Edinburgh throughout July and August.
Earlier this year, The Food Manufacture Group hosted a free one-hour food labelling webinar. You can listen back to the webinar here.