FSAI cracks down on ‘misleading’ marketing terms

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Among other terms, FSAI has outlined a clear definition of 'natural' foods
Among other terms, FSAI has outlined a clear definition of 'natural' foods

Related tags: Food

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has published guidance for food companies to ensure consumers are not misled by terms such as ‘natural’, ‘artisan’, ‘traditional’ and ‘farmhouse’.

Under the new guidance, food companies will only be allowed to describe a product as ‘artisanal’ if it is made in limited quantities by skilled craftspeople. ‘Farmhouse’ will be forbidden for use if a food is produced in a factory, while ‘traditional’ foods must be made using methods and recipes that are at least 30 years old.

FSAI director of food science and standards, Dr Wayne Anderson, said the guidance would help ensure such terms did not mislead consumers, and that manufacturers of genuinely artisanal or traditional foods could use the terms as a point of differentiation.

“Marketing terms are designed to resonate with consumers and are an essential part of business development in the food industry,”​ he said. “However, they have the potential to mislead when used incorrectly.” 

“…In particular, consumers need to be confident that the foods they purchase and consume are accurately and truthfully described on the label. Food businesses should also be confident that genuine descriptions of their food are not diluted in the marketplace by undefined marketing terms.”

Defining ‘natural’

The guidance also sets out clear rules on the use of the word ‘natural’. To qualify, single ingredient and compound foods must be “not significantly interfered with by man”. In addition, they must either be additive-free or only contain flavourings defined as natural, or other additives obtained from natural sources through physical processing, which could include distillation or solvent extraction.

Anderson said the guidance had been developed after extensive engagement with industry.

FSAI said all foods should adhere to the rules, but companies should be in compliance by December 2016 at the latest. However, the rules are intended as guidance for best practice and are not legally binding.

The full guidance is available to download here (pdf).

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