In the guide

This guidance is for England

Fruit and vegetables on sale at greengrocers should be marked with the true name of the food. Any foods that have been irradiated should be marked as such. Most fruit and vegetables are required by European Union (EU) grading legislation to be labelled with their class and may also need labelling with country of origin and variety.

Care should be taken with any other descriptions to ensure they are correct - 'organic' for example. There are other requirements in relation to pricing and weight marking of the products.

Required labelling should be on a notice, on the food, that is clear and conspicuous to customers.

The true name of the food

Food products must have a name indicated that adequately describes them.

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Irradiation

Food or ingredients that have been irradiated must be declared and labelled 'irradiated' or 'treated with ionising radiation'.

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EU marketing rules & grading requirements

Most fruit and vegetables are required by EU grading legislation to be labelled with their class and may also need labelling with country of origin and variety. Defra horticulture inspectors are responsible for the enforcement of these requirements. More information on traders' legal obligations can be found on the GOV.UK website.

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Country of origin or place of provenance

The country of origin or place of provenance should be marked if failure to do so would be misleading. (This place of provenance is a more local description than country of origin - for example, English strawberries or Tasmanian apples.)

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Waxed fruit

Fruit that has been waxed must be labelled as such.

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Prepacked fruit or vegetables that have been cut, peeled or similarly treated

These are required to bear a list of ingredients. For example, some prepared salads, dried fruit and peeled potatoes are treated with preservative solution to keep them fresh; this must be declared as an ingredient.

Additional requirements are in place for the following colourings:

  • E102 - Tartrazine
  • E104 - Quinoline Yellow
  • E110 - Sunset Yellow
  • E122 - Carmoisine
  • E124 - Ponceau 4R
  • E129 - Allura Red

These six colours have been subject to a request for voluntary withdrawal in the UK by the Food Standards Agency. Under EU law products containing these colours must be labelled with the following information: '[name or E number of the colour(s)]: may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children'. For more information on the additional information required if using these six colours, please see the guidance on the Food Standards Agency website.

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Allergens

If sulphur dioxide or sulphites have been used as a preservative, they must be highlighted in the ingredients list in order to comply with allergen-labelling requirements. 

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Organic

Organic fruit and vegetables can only come from producers, importers or processors that have been inspected and approved by a body authorised by the government. Food from any other source is not 'organic' and to describe it as such is an offence. See 'Labelling & describing organic food' for further information.

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Beetroot

Beetroot that has been dipped in vinegar should be labelled as such.

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Penalties

Failure to comply may result in an improvement notice being issued, requiring compliance to be achieved. If the improvement notice is not complied with it is an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

If allergen information does not comply with the requirements it is an offence under the Food Information Regulations 2014. The maximum penalty is a fine.

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Key legislation

EU Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 on food additives

Marketing of Fresh Horticultural Produce Regulations 2009

EU Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers

Food Additives, Flavourings, Enzymes and Extraction Solvents (England) Regulations 2013

Food Information Regulations 2014

 

Last reviewed / updated: December 2016

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

Feedback

Consumer enquiries from England, Scotland and Wales are handled by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who can be contacted by telephone on 03454 04 05 06. Consumer enquiries in Northern Ireland are handled by ConsumerLine who can be contacted by telephone on 0300 1236262. Call charges may vary.

Business enquiries are dealt with by your local council. Use the Chartered Trading Standards Institute's postcode finder to locate your local trading standards team.