Food packaging labels are something we take for granted even though we scrutinise them every day for information.
In spite of this familiarity, they are actually extremely important both for the consumer and the manufacturer.
Why are food packaging labels important?
The design of food packaging labels will be the first thing to catch the eye of a shopper and on that alone they can make up their mind to buy the product.
A design can be shorthand for ‘eco-friendly’, ‘low cost’ or ‘premium brand’. Primary colours and a quirky typeface can indicate that this is a range for children and a label may also include the image of the actual product on the packaging. The design is a signpost for savvy shoppers to investigate further.
But the main reason is that food packaging labels are designed to inform customers about the ingredients and calories in food products and this is a legal requirement.
Food packaging labels help people make informed decisions about what they are buying, furnishes them with knowledge of how to store the food safely and tells them how it should be cooked.
If you are a supplier to restaurants or supermarkets, it is essential that your food is labelled appropriately. Failure to comply to this regulation can lead to severe consequences.
If for some reason you do fail to label food correctly, the authorities will deem you non-compliant and issue you with something called an improvement notice, which will spell out what you have done wrong and how to rectify the breach.
You must bring your business into compliance within a specified period of time because if you don’t you will then be committing an offence and may be prosecuted. So, if you are asking why are food packaging labels important? The main reason is that they are a legal necessity.
There are other reasons too.
Food packaging labels teach us about ingredients and nutrients, so they contribute to our health and wellbeing.
Labels are important as they enable the consumer to obtain information about fats, vitamins and minerals and calories, so that they have the ability to make the choice that is right for them.
Without labels they would have no way to monitor their intake of nutrients. Now we know that not everyone is diligent when it comes to checking the amount of sugar and salt they are consuming, but there are others for whom this information is absolutely vital.
They can include people who need to watch their weight, or who have conditions such as type 2 diabetes which can be helped by diet.
Food packaging labels also contain information about use-by dates, storage and cooking instructions so that we don’t end up with food poisoning. The Food Standards Agency estimates that there are around 2.4 million foodborne illnesses occur in the UK every year. If people don’t know that certain foods need to be stored at certain temperatures, then they are at risk of getting ill and in some cases they may die. If you think of the consequences, you will see that food packaging labels can mean the difference between life and death.
The food industry is very conscious now of allergens and how they can affect people. Edibles such as peanuts, milk, eggs, fish, soya, crustaceans, and wheat are amongst the common products that people can become allergic to and consequently need to avoid. Food packaging labels are needed to ensure that someone allergic to a food isn’t placed in any danger. Again, they can mean the difference between life and death.
Prevents food waste
The dates on food labels are there to stop consumers from getting sick if the product is out of date, but they also exist to prevent people from binning produce too early and contributing to the 9.52 million tonnes of food waste which happens in the UK every year. Few people are confident when it comes to determining whether food is fit for consumption and need food packaging labels to guide them.
Tells you more
Consumers are becoming increasingly more aware of environmental issues and labelling can help them make more ethical choices such as buying organic produce or fair-trade foodstuffs. It can indicate the geographical location of their goods so that they can be assured that for example, their feta cheese is from Greece, or their Colombian coffee is actually from South America. It’s a fact that people will pay more for products that are considered better quality, ethically sourced or organic, so labelling can help manufacturers maximise their profits.
Stops counterfeit goods
Labelling prevents people from buying goods that aren’t what they say they are. Let’s face it. When you buy something, you want it to (literally) be what it says on the tin.
Using food packaging labels in commercial industries
Food packaging labels for commercial industries differ depending upon how you sell your products.
If you run a catering business, sell food loose, or package it for sale in your shop the only things you need to list are:
- The name of the food
- If any ingredients have been derived from genetically modified sources or irradiated
- Certain warnings (see: gov.uk/food-labelling-and-packaging/food-and-drink-warnings)
- Food additives that have been added
- Allergen information (for example, ‘May contain nuts/shellfish’ etc)
- If you sell meat products loose, you need to show more information (see: gov.uk/guidance/meat-products-sell-them-legally-in-england)
However, in a commercial kitchen you also need to label foodstuffs that are being stored.
Learning how to do this with rotation labels ensures that there is no wastage and that patrons don’t leave the establishment with food poisoning.
The advantages of using food rotation labels beyond just being able to identify which storage bin has carrots and which bin has lettuce. They provide many more uses to help you run a safe, clean and efficient commercial kitchen.
Not only do you eliminate the chance of foodborne illnesses, but you can identify allergens to ensure that foods that have come into contact with allergens are easily identified.
All time and temperature-controlled food require three pieces of information:
- Type of food
- Date food was added
- Date food expires
Food labelling: What you must show
In all other types of food you are selling, you must show the following information:
- The name of the food
- A ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date
- Any necessary warnings
- Net quantity information
- If more than one ingredient you need to show a list of each one and these must be listed in order of weight, with the main ingredient first as well as the country or place of origin, if required
- The lot number or use-by date
- Special storage conditions
- instructions for use or cooking, if necessary
If you’re selling food in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), you must also include the name and address of the UK or EU business responsible for the information on the food.
If the business is not in the UK or EU, you must include the name and address of the importer.
For more information visit:
As you can see, food packaging labels fulfil numerous functions, from attracting customers to the product in the first place, to ensuring that they can eat the product in the knowledge that it will not do them or any of their loved ones any harm.
It’s all about instilling confidence too.
As international trade increases and in-post Brexit UK, deals are being struck with food providers from far flung places across the world, people need to know more than ever who our food producers are and exactly where the food comes from.
Trustworthy labels deliver a helping of reassurance along with the product contained within.