Food Law News - UK - 2001
FSA Letter, 31 July 2001
LABELLING - Food Labelling Action Plan: Criteria for the Use of the Terms Fresh, Pure, Natural Etc
The letter seeks views on draft advice to industry and enforcement authorities on use of these terms on food labels and in advertising. Consumer research and public consultation have identified consumer dissatisfaction with, and distrust of, a wide range of so-called "marketing terms". These are not defined in law and, if used inappropriately, they may mislead.
When the Agency's Board discussed and agreed its Food Labelling Action Plan in September last year, it agreed the Agency should encourage industry to adopt clear, transparent criteria for the use of potentially misleading terms like "fresh", "traditional" etc. The Board invited the Food Advisory Committee, which advises the Agency on food safety and standards issues (including labelling), to investigate how these terms were being used and advise on development of Agency guidance.
The Committee has now published its report, and draft Agency advice based on its recommendations are available on the FSA web site at:
Copies of the full report (in pdf format) are available from the Agency's website at:
The FSA would welcome views on the draft criteria and all aspects of the FAC's report. Are there are other terms that could usefully be tackled in a similar way? They are particularly keen to have ideas on examples to include in the guidance of valid, and inappropriate, usage of the terms covered.
There are also some specific points raised in the FAC's report on which the FSA would like views:
- The use of "fresh" to describe fish: The FAC has recommended that raw meat must not be described as "fresh" if it has been previously frozen. In contrast, very little fish has not been frozen at some point in the chain. Current use of the term "fresh fish" to reflect its unprocessed condition, as opposed to the time elapsed after catching, is thought by the FAC to be unlikely to mislead the average consumer, but the Committee is aware there are views to the contrary.
- The use of "freshly": The FAC has suggested that clarification of the use of "freshly" (eg "freshly prepared", "freshly baked", "freshly picked" etc) in a variety of specific applications, particularly in relation to time periods, might be possible in the light of detailed consultation. Is it possible to define fixed periods of time elapsed since manufacture / preparation for particular foods beyond which the use of "fresh" or "freshly" would be unacceptable?
- The use of "natural": There are fundamental questions surrounding the issue of genetic modification and the use of refined and other derivatives of GMOs in foods. If it is accepted that primary ingredients derived from GMOs are not to be considered "natural", it has then to be established how far down successive steps of subsequent refining and use of such derivatives this status should go. In other words, is there a stage at which the use of such derivatives should not be prevented from using of the term "natural"?
- The use of "traditional": The advice here is that the ingredients and processes used should have been available, substantially unchanged, for a significant period. However, the period during which this has occurred is a matter for debate and may, to some extent, be product-specific. The FAC has suggested that the period might be of the order of 2 generations / 50 years. Do the same considerations apply to the use of the term "vintage" on products other than alcoholic drinks?
Comments on the Criteria are required no later than 31 October.
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