You are here:

Nutrition labelling

A factsheet on nutrition labelling, covering labelling legislation and initiatives that have been developed to help consumers

About this article

Labelling legislation
Nutrition labelling
Initiatives to help consumers
Nutrition and health claims


Food labels are used to provide consumers with information about the food they select and eat, including information on the nutritional composition of a product.

Quality and value for money are still the major selection criteria for consumers when shopping for food. But many other factors are also important, including suitability for a healthy diet. Nutrition information on a label can therefore help people to make appropriate choices for their personal needs.

Labelling legislation

Food labelling is subject to strict requirements set out in European legislation. To comply with legislation, basic labelling provisions for pre-packaged foods must include:

  • The name of the food (legal or customary name, not the brand name)
  • A list of ingredients
  • A quantitative declaration of ingredients (QUID) if the ingredient used is mentioned in the product name or emphasised by product information (for example 'chicken' in chicken pie)
  • An appropriate date mark
  • Any special storage conditions, conditions of use or preparation instructions
  • The name or business name and an address or registered office of either or both the manufacturer or packer, or a seller established within the European Union
  • Particulars of the place of origin or provenance of the food if failure to give these might mislead a purchaser about the true origin or provenance of the food
  • The weight or volume of the food or beverage

Nutrition labelling

A new EU regulation was published in October 2011 covering the provision of food information to consumers. The Food Information Regulation is mandatory and pre-packed products with an area greater than 25cm2 will require nutrition information.

Where nutrition information is provided it must comply with the regulation and should include: energy, total fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt.

Previously nutrition information was provided as either:

i) energy, protein, carbohydrates and fat (known as a 'Group 1' or 'Big 4' declaration) or

ii) energy, protein, carbohydrates, sugars, fat, saturates, fibre and sodium (known as a 'Group 2', 'Big 4 + little 4' or '4 + 4' declaration)

The transition period for implementing the new labelling requirements ends in December 2014.

Initiatives to help consumers

In 1998, following collaboration between the government, consumer organisations, nutrition experts and the food industry, IGD published guidelines for voluntary nutrition labelling, including the use of Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) for calories, fat and saturated fat for men and women. This work was in response to consumer research that indicated consumers found the nutrition information on pack difficult to understand and interpret.

GDAs were developed for men, women and children. They show how information on nutrition can be provided in a format which enables consumers to gain an improved understanding of how that product contributes to their diet and in turn helps them make informed decisions.

The EU's Food Information Regulation states that front of pack labelling initiatives may be provided in addition to the mandatory back of pack nutrition information. They should be based on harmonised reference intakes, which can be based on per 100g/ml or per portion. Information can be provided for energy only or energy plus fat, saturates, sugars and salt. If this information is provided per portion of the product then in the same vicinity it must also state the energy value per 100g/100ml. These guidelines must be adhered to by December 2014.

Nutrition and health claims

Nutrition and health claims made on foods are tightly regulated to ensure consumers are not misled by unsubstantiated, exaggerated or untruthful claims. Regulation EC No. 1924/2006 defines how nutrition and health claims can be made in labelling, advertising, promotional campaigns and other commercial communications. It lays down rules for the substantiation and communication of these claims. Full nutrition information must be provided on pack whenever a nutrition or health claim is made.

The European Commission will develop 'nutrient profiles' with regard to levels of saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Meeting the nutrient profiles will be a condition for making nutrition or health claims

Nutrition claims state that a food has beneficial nutritional properties, for example 'low fat', 'no added sugar' or 'high in fibre'. Nutrition claims can only be made if they are on a list in the Annex to regulation 1924/2006. Any micronutrient that is the subject of a nutrition claim must be present in sufficient quantities (minimum 15% RDA per serving).

Comparative claims can only be made between foods or drinks in the same category. Any such claim may only be made where the difference in content is at least 30% (micronutrients 10% difference; sodium/salt 25% difference).

Health claims, meanwhile, state that health benefits can result from consuming a given food, for example: 'vitamin D aids calcium absorption for strong bones'.

The European Food Safety Authority is responsible for verifying the scientific substantiation of health claims. The European Commission then decides whether to authorise the claim. Claims that a food prevents, treats or cures a disease (medicinal claims) are prohibited

Related Internet links:

- British Dietetic Association
- British Nutrition Foundation
-Food Standards Agency
-EU Food Information regulation

(IGD is not responsible for the content of external sites)

Related information on

Nutrition, food and farming

Nutrition, food and farming insight

Get the latest IGD nutrition, food and farming insight, factsheets and free guides.


Do you have any specific queries about the food and grocery industry? If you're an IGD member or a subscriber to our online services you can ask our experts.