Nutrition labeling - what is mandatory and what is voluntary?

Mandatory nutrition labeling helps consumers make conscious decisions and additional labeling systems in a friendly and clear way facilitate the purchase and streamline the selection process. In Poland, as well as in other European countries, there are companies which, ahead of the competition, introduce facilities for buyers.

Obligation to label products with nutritional value

Nutrition labeling has been mandatory for food producers since 2016. Standardized guidelines on the way of labeling foodstuffs with nutritional value can be found in Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.

Usually, the nutritional information is provided in the form of a table on the package. It tells you the amount of individual nutrients that are contained in 100 g or 100 ml of a given product, such as protein, fat, fatty acids, carbohydrates, sugars, fiber, salt, minerals, and energy value. The nutritional information on the product label allows consumers to make choices in line with their needs and supports a healthy lifestyle, while the standardized way of providing information allows you to compare products of the same category.

Voluntary nutrition labeling systems

In order to facilitate the choice of consumers, newer and newer food labeling systems are being developed, recommended by local authorities or introduced by companies on their own initiative to meet the needs of customers. Also in Poland there are companies which, ahead of the competition, introduce facilities for consumers, following the example from other countries.

There are many nutrition labeling systems in the European Union, such as FOPL, SAIN-LIM, SENS and NUTRI-SCORE. Some retail chains also introduce their own designations for their products. They differ from the usual nutritional tabular information in that they convey information in the form of colors that correspond to the dietary value of a given product. For example, the NUTRI-SCORE system consists of a letter code (A to E) in which each letter has a corresponding color - from green to red, which summarizes the nutritional value of the product. Dark green color means foods with high nutritional value, very important in the diet, which should be eaten more or more often, while red color means products that should be eaten less often or in small amounts because they contain ingredients that should be limited.

Advantages and disadvantages of additional food labeling systems

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Convenience for consumers

Information in the form of letters and colors facilitates shopping and streamlines the product selection process without the need to delve into the content of the label, it is also more transparent and understandable for the recipient. This type of labeling will also please producers of healthy food, who will emphasize the value of their products in this way. The necessity to use this type of labeling may contribute to the improvement of the composition of some products, the producers of which - realizing the increased consumer awareness - will want to increase their nutritional value in fear of reducing the demand for this product.

Controversies aroused by additional marking systems

However, additional food labeling systems can be controversial. The methods used to calculate them are believed to be simplified and do not take into account different nutritional needs. Also, not every healthy product can boast the highest rating in a given system, which may erroneously discredit it in the eyes of consumers. Regional products, created on the basis of natural ingredients, such as cheese or olive oil, are exposed to a negative assessment. Labeling systems, on the other hand, may turn out to be beneficial to processed food producers who may eliminate undesirable ingredients considered in the evaluation by modifying recipes for their products. However, this does not mean that such products are healthy.

Due to these controversies, additional food labeling systems remain voluntary, although in some countries they function as generally accepted and in order to fit into a given market, producers have to adapt to the market for their products, labeling them according to the adopted system.

Consumer trends

Colorful, visible markings are positively perceived by consumers, therefore a single, unified labeling system may soon be created, which will be obligatory throughout the European Union. Meanwhile, additional systems remain voluntary, while the labels required by Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers remain the most reliable source of information for consumers.

Nutritional value and help in the correct labeling of food labels

WESSLING Polska develops its services, and our specialists follow changes in food law to adapt their offer to the current requirements. Among our novelties you will find physicochemical tests of food for nutritional value and calculation of the value of the indicated daily consumption of the product, as well as assistance in the assessment of the labeling of food products. 

To get acquainted with our offer, we encourage you to use the option of arranging an online meeting, during which - without leaving your home - you will talk with the representative of our company prepared to advise you on the topic of the needs for your business.

 

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