In the guide

Note: although the United Kingdom has left the European Union (EU), 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 guidance relates to food that is loose and food that is packaged at the request of the consumer. This is collectively referred to as non-prepacked food.

The Food Information Regulations 2014 place minimal labelling requirements on non-prepacked foods.

Until recently, requirements for foods that are prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) were similar to those for non-prepacked foods. On 1 October 2021 they changed significantly, particularly related to allergen labelling requirements ('Natasha's law'); as such, information on PPDS foods has been moved into a separate guide: 'Labelling of prepacked-for-direct-sale foods'.

Definitions

'Loose' means food that is sold or displayed without packaging - for example, ice cream displayed in a freezer and served into a tub.

'Food that is packaged at the request of the consumer' means food that is sold or displayed without packaging but is placed in packaging after purchase - for example, a joint of ham displayed loose on a deli counter, slices of which are cut and placed into sealed bags when a consumer makes a purchase.

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Labelling requirements

Non-prepacked food must be labelled with the following:

  • the name of the food
  • the allergens present in the food
  • in the case of a meat product, a meat content declaration (see below)
  • in the case of irradiated food, an irradiated food statement (see below)

While non-prepacked foods have far fewer labelling requirements than prepacked foods, any information that must appear follows identical rules as when it appears on a prepacked product.

Full details for the name of the food can be found in 'Labelling of prepacked foods: product name'.

Full details for allergens present in the food can be found in 'Food allergens and intolerance'.

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Meat products

A meat product is any product that contains meat as an ingredient.

You are required to declare how much of the product is made of meat in the form of a percentage; this is referred to as a quantitative ingredient declaration (QUID).

Full details for QUID can be found in 'Labelling of prepacked foods: QUID' (non-prepacked foods are not affected by any other QUID requirements, only the percentage of meat).

In the case of products that do not have an ingredients list the QUID should be presented as a statement specifying the type and amount of meat - for example, 'X% meat'.

Where more than one type of meat has been used you must declare the content of each - for example, 'X% chicken, X% pork'.

The QUID can alternatively be given in the name of the product - for example, 'Sausage roll (20% pork)'.

There are compositional requirements that some meat products must comply with; full details can be found in 'Composition of meat products'.

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Irradiated food statement

If the food (or any ingredient in the food) has been irradiated, the words 'irradiated' or 'treated with ionising radiation' must appear in close proximity to the name of the food.

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How to label

On the product. If possible, the information can be presented on a label that is on the packaging, attached to the packaging, or visible through the packaging.

On a notice. The information can appear on a notice in close proximity to the product or on the shelf edge.

Verbally. In the case of allergen information only, you can give the customer the information verbally. You must place a notice in close proximity to the product (or on the product itself) inviting customers to ask a member of staff for allergen information - for example, 'Please ask us about allergens in our food'.

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Trading standards

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'.

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In this update

Following changes to the law on allergen labelling, information on food that is prepacked for direct sale has been moved into a separate guide.

Last reviewed / updated: October 2021

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Key legislation

Food Safety Act 1990

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

Food Information Regulations 2014

Food Information (Wales) Regulations 2014

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 legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab.

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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.

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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.

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