In the guide
Note: although the United Kingdom has left the European Union, certain pieces of legislation (formally known as 'retained EU law') will still apply until such time as they are replaced by new UK legislation; this means that you will still see references to EU regulations in our guidance.
This guidance is for England and Wales
This guide applies to products that are sold loose, packed at the request of the purchaser, or packed on the premises from which they will be sold (known as 'prepacked for direct sale').
Bread, cakes, savoury products, meat pies, sausage rolls, etc sold in the manner above must be marked with their name, details of irradiated or genetically modified ingredients, and any allergens that are present. Products that contain meat must state the percentage of the product that is made up by the meat (or meats if it contains more than one type).
The guide does not cover products prepacked by you for sale from another premises, nor does it cover products prepacked by another packer and sold by you. These products require full labelling; as such, they are covered by 'Labelling of prepacked foods: general' and its related guides.
How to present the information
In the case of goods that are sold loose or packed at the request of the customer, you should present the information on the shelf edge or on a notice that can be readily seen by customers. Where goods are prepacked on the premises from which they will be sold (prepacked for direct sale), you can present the information on a shelf edge or notice, or you can apply a label to the product.
In the case of allergens you can place a notice on display instructing the customer to ask a member of staff for allergen information.Back to top
The legal name of the product must be given. Under normal circumstances this is the name that describes the true nature of the food. A product marketed as 'Peter Pig' would need the descriptive name of the food to clarify what it is - for example, 'Marshmallow and digestive biscuit with a coating of pink icing'. The name 'Peter Pig' is a 'fancy name' and has no legal standing.
Sometimes a 'customary name' may be used instead of a descriptive name. A customary name is a name that allows the product to be clearly distinguished from other similar products and is readily understood by UK consumers without further clarification - for example, Belgian bun, Chelsea bun, etc.Back to top
If the product contains any of the following types of allergen then this must be declared:
- cereals containing gluten, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut, and their hybridised strains
- peanuts (also called groundnuts)
- nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamias and Queensland nuts
- sesame seeds
- milk and milk products (including lactose)
- soy beans
- sulphur dioxide and sulphites at levels above 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/litre expressed as SO2
You should specify the allergen as it appears in the list above. If a product contains wheat then you would state 'Contains wheat' as this is specified in the list; however, if a product contains prawns you would state 'Contains crustaceans' as 'prawns' does not appear in the list.
For more information on allergens see 'Food allergens and intolerance'.Back to top
Any products that contain meat as an ingredient will need a declaration of the percentage of the product that consists of meat; this is referred to as a 'quantitative ingredient declaration' (QUID) - for example, 'Sausage roll - contains 25% pork'.
If a product contains more than one type of meat a QUID will need to be given for each type of meat. Some products will need to have a minimum amount of meat before you can call them by certain names - meat pies, for example. Please see 'Composition of meat products' for more information.Back to top
If a food has been irradiated, or contains ingredients that have been irradiated, then you must state either 'Irradiated' or 'Treated with ionising radiation'. This should appear either on the shelf edge, a notice immediately above or next to the product, or on the label.Back to top
Genetically modified foods
If the product contains or is made from genetically modified foods you must state either 'Contains genetically modified [name of organism]' or 'Contains [name of ingredient] produced from genetically modified [name of organism]'. In the case of foods sold loose or packed at the request of the consumer the information should appear on the shelf edge or on a notice immediately next to the product. If the product is prepacked for direct sale the information should appear on the product.
For more information see 'Genetically modified foods'.Back to top
Bread, made from wheat flour, other than white bread, must have a notice on it that clearly and conspicuously tells customers which type it is - for example:
- brown bread
- wheatgerm bread (must contain 10% added wheatgerm)
- wholemeal bread (all the flour used must be wholemeal)
- soda bread
It is illegal to use the name 'wheatmeal bread'.
Brand names such as 'Hovis' and 'Granary' are insufficient on their own, you will also need to give a descriptive name.
Other types of bread where the flour is not wholly wheat flour must be appropriately described - for example, rye bread.Back to top
Cakes and confectionery
You must ensure that any description is true and accurate; some examples are below:
- it is important to realise that the words 'flavoured' and 'flavour' have very different meanings - for example, 'vanilla flavoured icing' derives its flavour only from real vanilla, but 'vanilla flavour icing' is synthetically flavoured and contains no vanilla. If neither word is used (vanilla slice, for example) the flavour must be only from natural vanilla
- the cream in cream cakes must be wholly dairy cream. If any artificial or imitation cream is used this must be stated in the name of the food
- imitation cream and imitation chocolate must not be described as cream or creme, chocolate or choc
Protected food names
Cornish pasties and traditional Cumberland sausages (among others) have been accredited with protected status. Any products using this name must comply with the compositional and/or origin requirements. More information on protected food names, including a list of UK registered names, is available on the GOV.UK website.Back to top
Gluten free and low gluten claims
A gluten-free claim is a statement to the consumer that eating the product will not cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. Gluten-free claims should not be made unless production control and in-store handling procedures are sufficiently robust to ensure that there is no gluten contamination and that test results show that gluten is present at less than 20 mg/kg.
If you wish to make a claim of 'very low gluten' then you must ensure that the product contains no more than 100 mg/kg.
No other gluten claims are permitted (for example, 'Made with no gluten-containing ingredients').Back to top
For more information on the work of trading standards services - and the possible consequences of not abiding by the law - please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.Back to top
Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed
Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 on food additives
Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers
Last reviewed / updated: March 2021
In this update
No major changes