Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (the FIC Regulation) will be applicable as from December 13, 2014.
This is the first of a series of news alerts specifically addressing how those rules will impact functional foods manufacturers and distributors.
Catalogues, leaflets, on-line shops and other “means of distance communication” offering foods, including food supplements, for sale in the EU countries, should, as from December 13, 2014, include all the mandatory information required by the FIC Regulation before the purchase is concluded.
As a consequence, any food supplied through distance selling must meet the same information requirements as food sold in regular shops.
So far, a few aspects of distance selling (e.g. information about the product’s price) are regulated at national level by electronic commerce and similar provisions. Therefore, distance selling regimes may vary across the EU.
“Mandatory food information” means the particulars that are required to be provided to the final consumer by Union provisions (and not only by FIC). The particulars that must be available before the purchase is concluded are:
the name of the food;
the list of ingredients;
any ingredient or processing aid causing allergies or intolerances;
the quantity of certain ingredients or categories of ingredients;
the net quantity of the food;
any special storage conditions and/or conditions of use;
the name or business name and address of the food business operator responsible for the food information;
the country of origin or place of provenance; and
instructions for use where it would be difficult to make appropriate use of the food in the absence of such instructions.
In addition, other specific mandatory information should be made available at the moment of delivery – for instance, warnings regarding caffeine consumption or a statement on sweetener content.
Method of presentation of information
The FIC Regulation also indicates how the mandatory information should be presented for distance selling purposes. As general rule, mandatory information must appear on the material supporting the distance selling or be provided through other appropriate means clearly identified by the food business operator. Furthermore, mandatory food information must be provided without any supplementary costs.
Who is responsible
Where foods are offered for sale by means of distance selling, the responsibility for providing mandatory food information before the purchase is concluded lies with the owner of the website.
The FIC Regulation entered into force on December 13, 2011 and will apply from December 13, 2014. For nutrition information the transition period is two years longer (i.e. December 13, 2016). Even so, it is possible to include nutrition information together with any other mandatory particulars required from December 13, 2014 or even now.
It is crucial that the information provided in the labeling of the product be consistent with the information given to the consumer before the purchase is concluded. In practice this means only seven and a half months remain to adjust the means of distance communication to the new requirements.
Any change in the labeling of a product will have to be reflected in the information made available for the distance selling. For instance, any promotional packaging containing increased quantities of the product means that the net weight will have to be reflected in the information on the relevant website or in the catalogue, etc.
Next Alert: FIC and the labeling of food supplements