FSA: Government food labelling changes

Wednesday 1 September 2010

From today, there are changes being made to which Government departments have responsibility for food labelling policy.

The FSA will retain responsibility for food safety aspects of labelling but, in England, other responsibilities will go to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Responsibilities for nutrition labelling will move to the Department of Health at a later date. The three departments will be working closely together to ensure joined up engagement from government on food labelling policy.

The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently considering whether they want to make any alterations to their current arrangements for food labelling and composition policy, given these changes in England. However, at present, functions that are transferring in England remain the responsibility of the FSA in those countries.

The overall labelling policy responsibilities for each department are set out below.

Food Standards Agency

The FSA will retain responsibility for food safety aspects of labelling. This will cover:
  • expert 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)
  • animal feed, including Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Animal Feeding
  • food safety incidents, including misleading labelling and food fraud with possible food safety implications
  • EU General Food Law regulation, including traceability of food and feed
  • 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

DH 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

Please note that nutrition labelling related issues remain within the FSA until they are transferred to DH.

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