UK unveils new labelling responsibilities

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

New rules carving up responsibilities for food labelling policy in the England came into force this week, with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) losing much of its power on the issue.

The move follows the UK Government’s announcement in July that a raft of functions carried out by the food watchdog would be switched to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department of Health (DOH).

While Defra took up its new role from 1 September, responsibility for nutrition labelling will shift to the DOH “at a later date”,​ said a FSA statement.

The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are considering whether they want to makechange to the new food labelling and composition policy regime. In the meantime, the FSA will keep functions that are transferring in England for these three countries.

New responsibilities

Food Standards Agency

The FSA will retain responsibility for food safety aspects of labelling. This will cover:

  • scientific advice on the food safety aspects of date marking
  • assessment and labelling of ingredients/foods with food safety implications (e.g. allergens, glycols, high caffeine, high glycyrrhizinic acid)
  • food safety aspects of organic food and of foods controlled by compositional standards
  • treatments and conditions of use with food safety implications (e.g. quick frozen foods, raw drinking milk and pasteurisation, food contact materials)
  • GM and novel foods (including use of nanotechnology)
  • EU General Food Law regulation, including traceability of food
  • Codex Committees on Food Hygiene, Methods of Analysis and Sampling, Food Additives, Contaminants in Foods

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Defra will continue to cover its current labelling responsibilities, such as welfare, marketing standards and eco labelling. It will also now deal with labelling where this does not relate to food safety or nutrition. This includes:

  • general lead on food labelling legislation and relevant EU negotiations
  • lead on the EU Food Information proposal
  • country of origin labelling
  • food composition standards and labelling such as fruit juice and fruit nectars, jams and bottled water
  • technical advice on compositional standards for food without specific legislation, such as soft drinks and cereal products
  • fish labelling
  • use of marketing terms e.g. natural, fresh, clear labelling, vegan and vegetarian labelling
  • food authenticity programme
  • Codex Committees for: Food Labelling, Processed Fruits and Vegetables, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Fats and Oils, Fish and Fishery Products, Europe, General Principles
  • lead on Codex Alimentarius Commission, General Principles and Coordinating Committee for Europe

Department of Health

DOH will cover nutritional labelling policy (and relevant EU negotiations).This will include:

  • nutrition related aspects of the EU food information regulation
  • front of pack labelling
  • food for particular nutritional uses (PARNUTS)
  • infant formula and follow on formula
  • health and nutrition claims
  • food supplements
  • calorie information in catering establishments
  • Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses

Related topics: Policy

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