Labelling deadline looming for food manufacturers

16th June 2014 - Fine Cut

With new regulations relating to the labelling of food products set to come into force at the end of 2014, many retailers and manufacturers are facing a race against time to ensure they are compliant.

However, because continual changes to legislation have led to organisations having to repeatedly alter their labels already, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned it is unlikely that all firms will be able to meet the December 13th deadline on time.

The Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIR) has forced companies to amend the level of detail included in their labelling, making it necessary for them to share more information on elements like allergens and country of origin than was previously required. Guidelines on the design of the label, covering matters like font size, are also included in the directive.

As a result, businesses are currently battling a backlog of products that need to have their packaging brought up-to-date, while the cost of doing so has also left its mark.

Foodmanufacture.co.uk reports many industry experts are concerned the transitional period is not long enough and engagement with the enforcement authorities is now an essential step to ensure minimal disruption is felt.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum last month, BRC director for food Andrea Martinez-Inchausti expressed her concerns.

"The three-year transitional period has not really been for a year, because we have had different pieces of legislation that have come in between that we have had to take into account. For some products, we are in a third iteration of label changes, which is proving incredibly difficult to manage," she told delegates.

However, those responsible for enforcing the FIR have responded to the matter, stating their officers won't be "looking for problems". It's hoped this will go some way towards alleviating the worries expressed by many of those within the sector, although it by no means solves the overall challenge faced by those who still have to find the time and resources to be able to bring their products up to standard.

It was reported earlier this year by foodmanufacture.co.uk that food and research firm Campden BRI believed compliance with FIR would carry a "colossal cost" and represented a "truly enormous" job.

According to the organisation, the average financial impact of a label change stands at £3,260. This figure relates to just one product, meaning retailers or manufacturers that operate thousands of different lines could see their outgoings spiral into the millions.

A further concern is that there could be even more rule changes to come, with the European Union directing member states to make their own decision on the level of labelling regulation they choose to impose.

The Trading Standards Institute, which is responsible for enforcing the regulations, will be able to respond to products that fail to comply by issuing them with improvement notices - the first time this measure has been available. However, this tool will not be available to officers operating in Scotland.

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