Turkey has been aligning its Food Codex Regulation on Labelling and Food Information to Consumers (FIC) (official journal No: 29960) with Europe’s FIC, and the final version was published in January this year.
At the end of last month, after collaborating with different food assocations and food business operators for more than three years on the guidance notes, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock published the notes.
“It aims to protect consumers from misleading practices while trying not to create any trade barriers due to food labelling," Gokay Sen, regulatory consultant at Leatherhead Food Research, told FoodNavigator.
However, there are some interesting elements to the guidelines, said Sen.
'Real' and 'genuine' banned
Although it permits the use of ‘no additives’ claim for a food where it is normally allowed to add food additives, it is not allowed to use a claim for a specific food additive. Claiming ‘no MSG’, for instance, would put a food company in breach of the rules.
Although it also restricts the use of claims for the absence of specific ingredients – such as ‘no glucose syrup’ or ‘no palm oil’ – it allows statements such as ‘no pork/lard’ due to sensitivity around this in Turkey for its Muslim majority consumers.
Manufacturers must prove that the same production methods and ingredients have been used for at least 30 years in order to claim ‘traditional’ and the regulation strictly forbids the use of the terms ‘real’ and ‘genuine’ for foodstuffs, for example ‘real honey’ or ‘genuine Maras ice cream’.
Companies may only use words such as ‘original’, ‘the finest’, ‘premium’, ‘quality’ or ‘extra’ to make a comparison within their own brand products.
“It cannot be used to show a product is better than a foodstuff produced by other companies,” said Sen.
The same restrictions apply to claims used in English that are generally recognisable by consumers, such as ‘original’ or ‘natural’.
'The most detailed notes in the region'
Since the labelling requirements bring Turkish rules in line with EU Regulation on Food Information to Consumers (FIC), Sen does not believe it will be a challenge for European exporters to comply.
“The guidance will definitely help food businesses and enforcement authorities to better interpret rules on the marketing terms, reducing the risk of future challenges and disputes. The fact that it provides many examples on each topic makes it very easy to follow,” said Sen.
“Having experience with different guidelines published in European member states, I can say that it is one of the most detailed guidance notes prepared on food labelling in the region.”
It gives companies some time to bring their products in line. Foods placed on the market or labelled before 31 December 2019 must comply with the regulation, while labels which are not compliant by this time may be marketed until the last stocks are exhausted.
The full guidance notes can be seen here (available in Turkish only).