(B)utterly in breach? Ireland cracks down on misleading buttery claims

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

‘The use or emphasis of the word ‘butter’ in phrases or sentences on the packaging or advertising of fat spreads must not mislead consumers,’ says the FSAI. © iStock / akinshin
‘The use or emphasis of the word ‘butter’ in phrases or sentences on the packaging or advertising of fat spreads must not mislead consumers,’ says the FSAI. © iStock / akinshin

Related tags: Food safety authority, Milk, Butter

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has issued guidance for industry when using terms such as 'buttery' or 'butterly' following complaints that margarine manufacturers were misleading consumers.

Although the FSAI would not reveal the details of the complainant, it said the complaint did not refer to a specific product but was general nature, regarding the use of the term butter and derived terms on non-butter products.

It has published the guidance note, The Use of the Term ‘Butter’ in the Labelling and Advertising of Fat Spreads​, which summarises Irish and European legislation in a bid to help industry comply with the law and protect consumers from false advertising.

Chief specialist in food technology at the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), Dr Pat O’Mahony, said: “It is natural that marketing specialists will use every means at their disposal to gain a competitive edge over their rivals, but this must not be achieved at the expense of consumers’ trust.

“We hope that our guidance document will assist the industry to comply with the complex legislation in this area, so that consumers can be confident that the foods they purchase and consume are accurately and truthfully described on the label or in associated advertising.”

According to the guidance notes, butter is defined as a churned-cream dairy product consisting primarily of milk fat, water, non-fat milk material and if necessary, salt. It says that terms derived from the word butter – such as ‘buttery’ or ‘butterly’ – should only be used on packaging or advertising associated with fat spreads if it is clear to consumers that they relate to organoleptic properties of the product. This means a brand can refer to the ‘buttery’ taste or ‘buttery’ flavour but should be careful if emphasising  the word ‘butter’ in phrases or sentences on packaging or advertising.

Food businesses must carefully consider using the term ‘butter’ or derived terms such as ‘buttery’ or ‘butterly’ so that consumers are not misled in terms of the nature of the product on offer,” ​said O’Mahoney.

‘It’s now up to industry’

A spokesperson for the FSAI told FoodNavigator: “The FSAI has provided clear and concise regulatory information along with some advice to this sector of the food industry. It is now up to the industry to consider this guidance when applying labels to fat spreads or developing marketing materials to advertise their products.”

The spokesperson said industry would be given until the end of 2016 or possibly 2017 to reflect on the guidance, after which the FSAI would conduct a review of the situation to determine if further action is required.

The guidance notes can be downloaded here. 

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