There is a plethora of software options and subscriptions available for businesses to calculate the nutrient contents of their recipes – but as with anything, the accuracy of the data output is only going to be as good as the information going in!
I first wrote about this in 2016 and the importance of using professionally trained experts, but in recent months it has become apparent when talking with several food business owners, that small/medium sized operators are increasingly starting to calculate their nutrition information themselves. With this in mind, now seemed a good time to revisit and discuss the benefits & pitfalls of calculating the nutrition contents of foods and drinks.
AB Food Nutrition has many years of experience calculating the nutrient composition of recipes for labels, menu boards and magazines. Using your product recipe we can take the hassle out of nutrition labelling compliance whilst providing an inexpensive, confidential and personal service to your business. Contact Anne for details.
The marketing of food is essential for businesses to develop within the food industry however, they have the potential to mislead when used incorrectly. It’s a particularly tough job for small businesses looking to find the best way to communicate the differences between their products and mainstream commercial foodstuffs.
When using marketing terms responsibly, food business operators need to be aware that there are general principles to be followed in the provision of food information to consumers:
Article 7 Regulation (EU) 1169/2011
Food information shall not be misleading, particularly:
(a) as to the characteristics of the food and, in particular, as to its nature, identity, properties, composition, quantity, durability, country of origin or place of provenance, method of manufacture or production;
(b) by attributing to the food effects or properties which it does not possess;
(c) by suggesting that the food possesses special characteristics when in fact all similar foods possess such characteristics, in particular by specifically emphasising the presence or absence of certain ingredients and/or nutrients;
(d) by suggesting, by means of the appearance, the description or pictorial representations, the presence of a particular food or an ingredient, while in reality a component naturally present or an ingredient normally used in that food has been substituted with a different component or a different ingredient.
To assist with compliance however, you will be glad to know that there is some industry guidance available on the use of some certain and increasingly popular marketing terms!
Should only be used to advertise foods that meet all of the following criteria:
The food is made in limited quantities* by skilled craftspeople*
The processing method is not fully mechanised and follows a traditional* method
The food is made in a micro-enterprise* at a single location
The characteristic ingredient(s)* used in the food are grown or produced locally*, where seasonally available and practical.
To state that food originates from a farm, it must meet all of the following:
The food is made in a single location on a farm*
The food is made by a micro-enterprise*
The characteristic ingredient(s)* used in the food are grown or produced locally*
However, there are foods that have used the term ‘farmhouse’ for many years and are well understood by the consumer and so they may continue to be marketed this way even if they don’t meet all three criteria above eg. Bread with a split and rounded crust, coarse textured pâté and soup made with chunky vegetables.
The term ‘farmhouse’ would not be acceptable for fresh, pasteurised milk and cream however ‘farm fresh’ has been associated with these products for years and so can continue to be used.
This implies that food is made to a time-honoured recipe or in a time-honoured way and so must comply with at least one of the following:
The food is made to an authentic recipe which can be proved to have existed without significant modification* for at least 30 years and/or
The food has been made using a method of preparation that has:
Existed for more than 30 years although automation and mechanisation of these methods is acceptable and,
Does not deviate substantially from the traditional food processing method associated with a certain type of food.
For single ingredient foods, the term can be used if the food* is formed by nature and is not significantly interfered with by man*, but also only if this would not be the case for other similar foods (such as processed or containing additives).
Compound foods by their very nature have been formed by man so cannot be ‘natural’ however, if different to other similar compound foods they may use the description ‘made with natural ingredients’ if:
The ingredients* are formed by nature and are not significantly interfered with by man*
The ingredients* and the final food are:
Contain flavourings that are natural as defined in European law or
Contain other food additives that are obtained from natural sources, e.g. plants, by appropriate physical processing (including distillation and solvent extraction) or traditional preparation processes.
You can see these sorts of claims on the recently launched nitrite free bacon or hams.
Dairy products have for many years included ‘natural’ in their product name to indicate they are only made from milk using starter cultures necessary for fermentation but are free from other additives, flavourings and colours eg. Natural yogurt.
Food Labelling can be difficult and stressful when working to tight deadlines as it often involves being aware of the minefield of legislation and codes of practice to understand which your product labels must comply with. AB Food Nutrition has the knowledge and experience to help you label your foods legally whilst exceeding your expectations with our friendly, reliable and cost-effective solutions. Contact Anne for further details.
This is one burning question I have been asked several times – and one I have even wondered about myself, so having recently listened to a podcast on this topic with a senior European food law analyst (Peter Rixon, IEG Policy), I thought a short blog about this would be useful!
The general understanding is that in the short term there will not be any radical changes. Current EU regulations will continue to apply, including the most recent introduction of mandatory back of pack nutrition labelling. The UK actually helped to steer changes to EU food law that we now adhere to through the Food Information Regulation and it appears that negotiating trade agreements is the priority post Brexit!
However, looking at aspects of labelling such as front of pack traffic light nutrition – which is currently voluntary in the UK and has proven to be very successful despite not being popular with Italy (who put pressure on the EU Commission to take legal action against the UK as it is thought to discriminate against some of their products). France have recently launched a colour coding scheme indicating that this sort of labelling is likely to become more popular and that Brexit is not going to put a stop to it. There are also increasing pressures from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for traffic light labelling to become mandatory and for the same scheme to be applied correctly.
And what about health and nutrition claims? EU regulations govern these and it is the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) who is responsible for verifying them. It is thought that the UK will continue to apply the rules of the regulation with an opportunity to review them at a later date. There is an argument that the current rules prevent innovation and that deregulation could see advances in the functional food market. However, food businesses selling into the EU would still have to comply with the legislation.
So, in summary, it is envisaged that we are not likely to see the advances made in nutrition labelling becoming undone but instead, the UK has the opportunity to take the lead as there will be greater flexibility outside of EU regulation for us to do so. Whilst there will be the potential for change in the longer term, the emphasis post-Brexit will be on continuity and the avoidance of disruption.
AB Food Nutrition has many years of experience in food labelling and carrying out nutrition calculations for both mandatory back of pack nutrition labelling and voluntary front of pack multiple traffic light systems. Each project is handled with meticulous care to maximise accuracy whilst offering value for money and unparalleled customer support. For more information or to request a product recipe analysis contact Anne today.
Being a registered nutritionist who has a specialism in food labelling, I just can’t help myself checking out the food information on packaging when I am out and about in supermarkets, convenience stores or farm shops (by the way – I’m not alone on this!!). Sadly, I do see lots of mistakes – particularly when it comes to nutrition claims, and this isn’t always restricted to what is on the label as I see mistakes in other commercial publications such as websites, and advertisements but also increasingly on social media posts. Claims are even popping up on fast food & catering menus that drop through the door such as ‘low fat’, ‘superfood’ or ‘healthy option’!
Quite often these nutrition claims pop-up in a very general statement or within a product description – and if the authors didn’t think they were actually making a claim that must comply with regulations, then I should point out that ignorance is no defence!
The regulation EC no. 1924/2006 (as amended by EU reg no. 1047/2012) defines nutrition claims as:
stating, suggesting or implying that a food has a beneficial nutritional composition due to presence/absence/increased or reduced level of energy or a nutrient. Only nutrition claims listed in the annex to the regulation can be used if the specific criteria for that claim has been met.
And a heath claim as:
Stating, suggesting or implying that a relationship exists between a food/food category/constituents and health. So even saying “good for you” may also be a health claim! Only authorisedhealth claims can be used so long as products meet the conditions stated.
In a nutshell, it simply isn’t good enough to google information (other search engines are available!) about a food and then slap the nutritional/health benefits found all over labels, webpages and across your social media posts. Care needs to be taken to ensure that the nutrition information for your product is accurate in the first place so that you can check if any claims you want to make can be substantiated.
But that’s not all! One of the fundamentals of food labelling is that it must not be misleading so, the wording you can use must have the same meaning to the consumer as the claims listed in the annex or on the EU register. For example, saying a product “contains no fat” would be subject to the conditions for fat free. The same also goes for pictorial or symbolic representations. Medicinal claims that imply the food can prevent, treat or cure a human disease are a no go area – they are not permitted to be used on food!
And, if you want to make a comparative claim – this must be with foods of the same category so, for example you should not compare the calcium content of a yogurt with that of an orange! The key requirement is that the comparison helps consumers make informed choices. The comparison you choose should also be representative of the market, so making a reduced sugar claim on lemonade in comparison with the full sugar version in the range is permitted if the full sugar variant has similar sugar levels to other full sugar lemonades also available from competitors or brands.
There are additional statements required on the label (or presentation or advertising) of products that make health claims:
The importance of a varied & balanced diet and healthy lifestyle
Quantity/consumption pattern required to obtain the benefit
Statement to who should avoid using the food (if appropriate)
A warning if likely to present a health risk if consumed to excess
Every week the Advertising Standards Authority publish their weekly rulings, and for those companies who have been published for being in breach of the regulations/advertising codes, they generally remain on the website for five years!
The Department of Health have published detailed guidance and also a quick start guide containing a flowchart to help you decide whether you need to comply with the regulation. When done correctly and effectively, communicating the nutrition and health benefits of your products not only enables consumers to value them more, but can help them to make informed dietary choices too.
AB Food Nutrition specialises in carrying out nutrition analysis of products and recipes and assessing the criteria for any permitted nutrition / health claims. We can also review commercial communications including website copy for compliance with the regulations. For a competitive, personalised quotation contact Anne.
You’ve got nutrition information on your product labels, so that’s it – job done and you are fully FIR compliant now….right?
Well, yes and no!
Whether you have had your nutrition information calculated or analysed, it is only going to be valid for the recipe as it was at the time of the analysis. If in the future you decide to tweak the recipe, change the way it is processed or launch new products, then you have to make sure you have the nutrition information updated and incorporated on the pack or label before you even begin selling the product.
Even if you never ever change the recipe, nutrient contents of raw materials can change over time so it’s good practice to review your nutrition declaration approximately every 2 to 3 years. You may need to do this more frequently if you are using a lot of ingredients that have sub-recipes of their own, as your suppliers may also make improvements or changes to their products. Make sure you keep up-to-date specifications or information about all your raw materials so that you are aware if there are any changes that will impact upon your ingredients, allergen and nutrition labels.
Is nutrition information here to stay? What about Brexit?
The idea that following Britain’s decision to leave the EU means that we no longer have to follow EU law is a myth I’m afraid. A spokesperson from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute had said that any changes in food regulation wouldn’t come into effect until at least two years from now so in the meantime the current EU food regulations still stand. The government has even stated that following Brexit there will be greater flexibility for front-of-pack nutrition information, as currently under EU law, it is only voluntary so, it certainly looks like it is here to stay!
If you have now found yourself in the unfortunate position that the 13 December deadline has passed and you have not implemented the new rules on nutrition labelling yet, make sure you take action as soon as possible. AB food nutrition specialises in recipe analysis & nutritional labelling advice, and our confidential, personalised yet cost-effective nutrition labelling solutions make us the ideal partner for a food business of any size.