FIC regulation: What are the biggest headaches for manufacturers?
As the Food Information for Consumers (FIC) regulation approaches its December 13 compliance deadline, FoodNavigator spoke with Campden BRI’s head of regulatory affairs, Stephen Spice, about the biggest challenges for food companies.
“By the end of this year we are expecting to have about 5,000 inquiries to our food law advisory,” Spice said, compared to about 3,000 last year. He said about two-thirds of those inquiries were from food companies with questions about how to implement the new law.
“Allergens are a real hotspot for us, lots and lots of questions,” he said. “People don’t seem to understand how to declare allergens, in particular how they share information between businesses.”
When asked, the firm directs companies to the BRC/FDF guidance on allergen labelling, he said.
Other areas causing confusion include front-of-pack nutrition labelling, which many people think is becoming mandatory; it’s not.
“People tend to follow the example of the big brands, but it’s quite clear that it’s voluntary,” he said.
The deadline itself is also proving confusing, with many companies assuming that everything on supermarket shelves will have to be compliant by December 13.
Spice said: “That’s not the case. As long as you made it prior to the 13th, you can still sell it.”
However, some manufacturers have contacted Campden BRI asking what they can do if they have a warehouse full of non-compliant packaging, he said. “There will be some parts of the industry that will have some packaging write-offs.”
The cost of further changes
Although most of the legislation’s provisions come into effect this Saturday, there are other areas that could still see changes after the initial implementation date, including country of origin labelling, trans fatty acids and ‘may contain’ labelling.
“Companies may well need to change [their labelling] again,” he said.
“Nobody really likes to talk about money, but if you are a retailer and you have got 10,000 lines, and it is an average of £3,000 to change a label, that’s £3m – and if you need to do it all again it gets very expensive.”
That seems inevitable, considering that there are places in the law where the FIC conflicts with other legislation, like allergen labelling and font size regulation for wine, for example – and rules on origin labelling and trans fatty acid labelling are yet to be finalised.
Don’t forget the website…
“The next challenge in my mind is distant selling, getting websites to put extra information on there,” Spice said. “The extra information doesn’t just apply to the information on the packet – it also needs to be on the website. It is much more complicated than you might think.”