Trading Standards enforces legislation, including the Food Safety Act 1990 and Food Information Regulations 2014, that controls:
- Composition and labelling of food
- The information that you must provide with or about food
- How you advertise and describe food
The compositional requirements for some foods, such as sausages, jam and chocolate, are set out in law. They can vary from product to product, even if these appear similar. Where there is a compositional requirement to meet, food needs to contain specific quantities of certain ingredients to comply.
Visit the Business Companion website to find further details about what the law requires when preparing food and drink.
Food labelling and information
Food businesses have legal requirements to follow in:
- The way you label the food you make and supply
- The information you need to provide with it
This includes what must appear on labels and how clearly the consumer can see it. Claims about food and how you describe it on menus are controlled to ensure that consumers are not misled about what they are buying and consuming.
View the Food Standards Agency's guidance on packaging and labelling for more information.
The law requires food businesses to make information available to consumers about the allergens contained in their food. This is so they can make an informed choice about whether it is safe for them to eat.
List of allergens
The law requires you to declare the following 14 allergens:
- Cereals containing gluten (such as wheat and barley)
- Crustaceans (such as crabs and prawns)
- Molluscs (such as mussels)
- Sulphur Dioxide and Sulphites when present above a level of 10mg/kg
- Tree nuts (including hazelnuts, walnuts and cashews)
How to inform consumers of allergen information
You must make allergen information available to consumers either:
- In writing - by using a menu or a ticket placed with the food
- Verbally - where you tell consumers about the allergens in your food. If you decide to talk to consumers, you need to display a sign telling them to ask for allergen information. Any allergen information you give about your food must be accurate.
It is important your staff know what is in the food on offer and how they can ensure consumers receive this information. They may need to involve other staff members who have more knowledge of the food and / or how it is made.
Make sure written details referred to when providing allergen information are up-to-date and clear. Some ingredients may contain allergens that you might not expect and recipes and ingredients can change.
Allergens not on the list
Consumers may have allergies to food that isn't on the list of 14 items. If they request food without another ingredient, you must check that what you supply doesn't contain it. This makes sure the food is safe for the consumer to eat.
Food allergy training
The Food Standards Agency website has free online food allergy training. It is suitable for those who own, manage or work for a food business.
Recent / upcoming legislation changes
Labelling requirements for food that is pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) were introduced on 1 October 2021.
PPDS food = Food packaged at the same place it is offered or sold to consumers that is in its packaging before it is ordered or selected. The food is enclosed and cannot be changed without opening the packaging. It can include food that consumers select themselves (e.g. from a display unit), as well as products kept behind a counter and some food sold at mobile or temporary outlets.
Any business that produces PPDS food must label it with:
- The name of the food
- A full ingredients list
- Any allergenic ingredients emphasised within the list
Businesses need to check if their products require PPDS labelling and what to do to comply with the new rules.
View the labelling requirements on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website. The page includes detailed information on what the law requires food businesses to provide on the packaging of PPDS food they sell. You can also find information on:
- Legislative labelling requirements
- Quantitative Ingredient Declaration (QUID)
- Food additives and flavourings
- Responsibilities of food businesses and suppliers
The FSA has sector specific guidance on their website to support businesses to understand how the changes apply to their relevant sector. Guides include examples of PPDS products and a practical guide for labelling. The sector includes:
- Restaurants, cafes and pubs
- Fast food and takeaways
- Mobile sellers
If you are unsure whether your business sells food that is PPDS, you can use the Food Standard Agency's allergen and ingredients food labelling tool to help you decide.
Since 6 April 2022, large businesses (those with 250 or more employees) that sell food and drink prepared so that it is ready for immediate consumption on or off the premises, need to display information about:
- The calories it contains
- The portion size that contains those calories (e.g. per slice)
- A statement about daily calorie needs
This information must be displayed at any place where the customer chooses their food, whether from a menu or display and it must be easily visible, clearly legible and not interrupted or hidden by other text or images.
Some franchises may also be affected by this change in law.
To find out if and how your business is affected, visit the calorie labelling in the out of home sector implementation guidance on the GOV.UK website.
Food legislation - restricting promotions of products high in fat, sugar or salt by location and by volume price
The Food (Promotion and Placement) England Regulations 2021 provide for restrictions on the promotions and placement in retail stores and their online equivalents, of certain foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) or 'less healthy'.
HFSS products will no longer be permitted to be placed in 'key locations' (store entrances, aisle ends and checkouts) when retail stores are over 185.8 square metres (m2) or 2,000 square feet and the equivalent locations online.
Which businesses the restrictions apply to
These restrictions apply to medium and large businesses (with 50 employees or more) offering prepacked food for sale in store and online, including franchises. Some businesses are exempt from the location and volume price promotions, including the out of home sector even if they sell prepacked HFSS food and drink.
Additional rules implementing restrictions are planned - restricting volume and price promotional activities. For example, multi-buy offers - 3 for 2 and Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF). These provisions have been delayed and are now expected to come into force in October 2023. This includes restrictions on free refills for sugar-sweetened soft drinks sold in restaurants and out of home sector businesses.
Further guidance is available to help businesses affected by the provisions and ensure compliance with the regulations at the appropriate date. Visit the GOV.UK website to read the implementation guidance.
The Novel Foods (England) Regulations 2018 came into force 8 March 2018 and require foods classified as ‘novel’ to be authorised for sale by Food Standards Agency and to be listed on a central register as such.
What novel foods are
In very broad terms, for the purpose of highlighting the difference between 'food' and 'novel food', food is defined as:
“Food and food ingredients that come from plants, animals and other sources, have been produced by traditional growing, raising or propagating methods, and have a history of safe consumption by humans in the EU or the UK before 15 May 1997”.
By contrast, a novel food is any food or food ingredient that has not been eaten to a significant degree by people within the EU or the UK prior to 15 May 1997, and fits into one of ten categories.
You can view the categories in the novel foods guidance on the Business Companion website.
The significance of being a novel food
Novel foods cannot be used in food unless they have been through an approval process to check that:
- They do not present a danger to consumers
- Their use does not mislead consumers
- They are not so different from the foods or food ingredients that they are intended to replace that their consumption would be nutritionally disadvantageous to consumers (in other words, that choosing to eat them over traditional foods would not leave consumers lacking in vital nutrients)
These are checked in a process referred to as a safety assessment.
If a food / ingredient you wish to use is a novel food, and has not yet been authorised, you must not use it in, or as, food.
When using an ingredient that you know or suspect meets all or part of the definition above, you should research whether the food / ingredient is a novel food. Things to look out for include unusual ingredients, ingredients from outside the EU or the UK (and not in common usage within the EU or the UK), or an ingredient that is common but being used in a new or different way (for example, Chia seed oil rather than Chia seed).
Comprehensive guidance on novel foods
For full guidance on what is meant by a ‘novel food’, including guidance on CBD products as novel foods, and how you identify if something is on the Union list, view the novel foods guidance on the Business Companion website.
Guidance is also available from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website on how to get a product authorised which has not previously been on the authorised list.
The Food Standards Agency website also has a list of Novel Foods that are authorised and permitted for use in Great Britain, and provides details for each on the:
- Conditions of use
- Labelling requirements
- Date of authorisation
- Relevant legislation
The Food Standards Agency’s register does not replace the Union’s legislative list of novel foods authorised in Great Britain contained in the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/2470 (legislation.gov.uk website), (“2017/2470”) and subsequent amendments. This Regulation is the legal basis for the placing on the market and use of authorised novel foods. Any novel foods that were authorised prior to Brexit are retained in UK law and are included in the register.
You can also view the list of pending applications through the Regulated Products Application Service on the Food Standards Agency website.
CBD-based foods and food supplements
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid isolated from cannabis plants or produced synthetically. CBD is increasingly being used in foods and food supplements.
The CBD industry has been unable to provide sufficient evidence that CBD and other cannabinoids have been consumed to a significant degree within the EU prior to 15 May 1997.
CBD, and cannabinoids in general, are novel foods and cannot be legally included in food or food supplements until a safety assessment has been completed and the use as a novel food has been authorised. The assessment (and any subsequent authorisation) is specific to the product containing the CBD. Any variation from the authorised product (a different flavour, for example) will require a new authorisation specific to that product. To bring the current market into compliance, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) exceptionally asked the industry to submit applications for CBD products which were on sale on 13 February 2020.
In addition to the list of approved novel foods above, you can also access the list of CBD products linked to Novel Food applications on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website. This list of contains CBD food products which meet the following criteria:
- They were on the market on 13 February 2020
- The FSA received an authorisation application for the products before 31 March 2021
- The FSA has validated the application or agreed that it is sufficiently progressing towards validation
Inclusion of a CBD product in this list does not mean it is authorised, only that the applicant is seeking authorisation. For further information on the whether CBD products are classed as a ‘controlled drug’, whether they are classed as a ‘medicinal’ product, the legal sale of them and whether they are safe can be found in the novel foods guide on the Business Companion website.
Business advice from Trading Standards
To find out more about bespoke business advice services covering Food Standards and other regulatory matters, visit our business advice page.