The Food Information to Consumers (FIC) regulation (EU 1169/2011) – described by Campden BRI as ‘the biggest change in labelling legislation for a generation’ - will come into effect on December 13.
It will require highlighted allergens in the list of ingredients (such as gluten, peanuts and milk); better legibility of text (such as minimum sizing); and mandatory origin labelling of unprocessed meat from certain animals.
Regulation is 'not yet fully understood'
Ruffell told FoodQualityNews.com the regulation is the focus of many enquiries to Campden BRI's regulatory affairs advisors – with the deadline looming and question marks over some parts of the legislation.
“Currently around two-thirds of the enquiries we receive are related to the FIC,” she said. “Some foods are affected more than others so those producers will need to make more substantive changes, but the fact is that all food labels will need to be changed.”
“The difficulty with the regulation is two-fold. Firstly, there are still some aspects that are not yet fully understood, despite the regulation being in existence for some time.
"Secondly, if a company has a lot of products, they have probably had to start [changing] them before everything is known, simply to get the job done in time.
“Our advisors are busy answering questions relating to FIC and checking labels that get sent in to us to give a view on the degree of their compliance.”
The EU regulations include mandatory nutrition information on processed foods. This includes a number of PARNUTS products (foods for particular nutritional purposes) unless covered by other directives.
Finding the way through a 'regulatory maze'
Although important, Ruffell says FIC regulation ‘should not eclipse’ other requirements for food and drinks companies.
She has 15 years’ experience in the industry, with a background in nutrition and health claims, nutrition regulation and policy. Her previous roles include nutrition manager for the Food and Drink Federation and executive director of the Joint Health Claims Initiative.
She joined Campden BRI in March after working as a freelance consultant for seven years.
“My role at Campden BRI will include assisting companies who are considering using nutrition and health claims with their products - in other words what companies need to do if they wish to make such claims in the promotion of their product,” she said.
“This may be at the earliest stages of NPD, or reformulating a current recipe to increase consumer choice.
“Either way the end product must always comply, and this is best considered sooner rather than later.
“Similarly, for established products on the market companies may wish to rework their advertising campaign or re-write their website, both of which we can help with.”
Campden BRI gives scientific, technical and legislative support to the food and drinks industry. It covers a number of issues from hygienic production and the use of safe ingredients through to clear advertising and labelling.
“It is our role to lead companies through the ‘regulatory maze’ and identify what they need to do to comply with requirements,” Ruffell said.
“The regulations covering food and drink – such as production, labelling, and advertising - are complex and include a combination of legislation and self-regulation.”
Asked what she enjoys about her job, Ruffell said: “Helping companies increase awareness of what they need to do to launch or maintain successful products is rewarding. I never get bored of the range of enquiries or the nature of nutrition and health relationships.
“I find it satisfying to know that the work that we do helps ensure that consumers can trust and enjoy the foods that they choose.”