‘The law sets out rules that cover the preparation, composition and labelling of food supplied for human consumption’ TSI
In broad terms:
- the quality must meet the expectations of the consumer
- it must be as described and not presented in a way that misleads the consumer
- nothing may be added or removed that would make it harmful to health
Best Before, use by an sell by (dates)
- Best Before: This term is appropriate for most foods. It relates to the quality of food and is an indication of the period for which a food can reasonably be expected to retain its optimal condition. Retailers can sell food after the best before date provided the food is safe to eat.
- Use by: This term is appropriate for perishable foods. These foods present a microbiological risk to the consumer if sold after the indicated date. It is an offence for shops to sell food that is after the use-by date.
- Sell by: Products may be labelled with 'sell by' and 'display until' dates, but these are not required by law and are used mainly for stock control premises. (There are different rules for eggs)
It is very common to find various claims on menus within food establishments. Often claims are used as a selling point and can be a sign of quality.
Claims can vary from ones which have protected status due to geographical location such as Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef others have protected status due to their traditional production methods such as the Roquefort cheese, which is made from sheep’s milk and aged in caves in a particular area of France. Other claims may be associated with certain types of products or brands i.e.
- a breakfast that contains a certain brand of baked beans
- a cheesecake containing a certain brand of liqueur
- that meat is sourced from a particular farm
Business must take care so as to not mislead consumers when they describe the food on their menu.
Examples of misleading claims found by Local Authorities:
- Fire roasted' vegetables cooked in an ordinary oven.
- 'Freshly made' meatballs which were bought in from a wholesaler
- Homemade soup was dry pack soup mix with just hot water added
So as to assist manufacturers, producers, caterers and consumers the Food Standards Agency have produced guidance to clarify and ensure consistency in relation to the use of certain terms including Fresh, Traditional, Natural and Home-made etc.
If you sell food that is prepacked you must give the following information:
- the name of the food
- a best-before or use-by date
- any required warnings - for example, if food contains aspartame the following wording must be given: 'Contains a source of phenylalanine'
- a list of ingredients (if there are two or more)
- whether the food contains any of the 14 specified allergens
- the name and address of the responsible food business operator
- the lot number (or use-by date if you wish)
- any special storage conditions
- instructions for use or cooking, if necessary
Further labelling advice for different products can be found at the TSI Business Companion website.
The Trading Standard Institute (TSI) Business Companion website provides information for businesses and individuals that need to know about food standards and labelling legislation.
The guidance is divided up into broad Quick Guides and each one contains a number of more detailed In-depth Guides.
There is also a substantial amount of guidance produced by the Wales Heads of Trading Standards (WHoTS), which is regularly updated and covers different food stuffs as well as being business specific.