Despite Brexit, the FIR food information regulations are here to stay. What’s more, a new set of rules comes into effect on December 13. Are you ready for FIR phase 2?
The original FIR directives were mandated as far back as 2011 as the European Food Information to Consumers Regulation No 1169/2011 (aka FIC). They came into effect in England in December, 2014, with similar legislation passed in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. While these rules dealt mostly with labelling and the signposting of 14 allergens, the next raft of legislation covers nutrition information.
Very briefly: if you sell pre-packaged food, you now need to display energy values in both kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal) on its packaging or on its label. There are strict rules on what information must be shown on either the front or back of pack. This information must be presented clearly along with the item’s quantities of fat, saturates, sugar, protein, carbohydrates and salt. You can see the full details from the Department of Health here.
If you are selling food that isn’t pre-packed, then, on paper at least, you don’t need to worry about the new nutritional rules as they don’t apply.
But before you breathe a big sigh of relief, bear in mind that if you are making any voluntary claims whatsoever about a food product, then you pretty much have to follow the rules for pre-packed foods anyway. At the very least, you need to declare either the product’s energy value or its energy value plus its amounts of fat, saturates, sugars and salt (known as “energy + 4”). Plus you may want to add info about things like polyunsaturates, starch, fibre and so on.
At Cybake, we believe that these new nutritional requirements are becoming ever more pertinent. For example, a significant number of bakers that use our software have moved into the gluten-free or even wheat-free markets in recent years. Voluntary claims can be an important part of a brand story. And as customers become ever more ingredients-obsessed, we can see nutri-labelling ending up as a near universal trend, whether food is pre-packaged or not.
Either way, having been passed into law across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, these rules are unlikely to be unpicked or abandoned in some kind of bonfire of EU red tape. Consumers will increasingly expect the information anyway and if you are exporting to the EU, as quite a few of our customers do, then there will be no question of non-compliance.
Meanwhile, the pressure on food operators over allergens has grown considerably since the first raft of FIR. For example, there has been a threefold increase in fines since UK courts received new sentencing guidelines on food safety in February, 2016. In May, North Yorkshire restaurateur Mohammed Zaman was jailed for six years for causing a customer to die of severe anaphylactic shock.
In fact, the number of food recalls recorded by the Food Standards Agency shot up by 78% in 2015 compared to the previous year. Experts say that this was mostly down to unlisted allergens and ingredients. Fines for getting allergy labelling wrong – which were originally set at £5,000 per incident – are now unlimited in England and Wales.
All in all, FIR phases one and two have proved to be a big, if ultimately necessary, headache for bakers and other food firms. Loads of paperwork, lots of cross-referencing and many extra hours of hard grind, especially for owner-operators and QA or technical managers.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you want to cut the time you spend on FIR and make sure all your data is correct, check out Infood, our all-in-one food information application.
Infood generates the nutritional information required by FIR phase two as well as the accurate allergen data required by phase one. As an added bonus for those wishing for more leisure time, Infood also generates product specification documents.
With Infood, all calculations, QUIDS, allergy info and other data needed to meet both FIR and wholesale customer specifications is automatically generated in minutes. This information is then fed to your labels, tills, receipts, websites and specification documents.
Infood is easy to use and includes time-saving ingredient libraries for rapid recipe calculation. Automatic allergen alerts are built into recipe creation. All mandatory energy (kilojoule/kilocalorie) and quantity (fat, sugar, salt etc.) declarations as well as voluntary supplementary declarations are built in.
What’s more, if you have a wholesale operation, Infood provides a nifty way to communicate all your food information to your customers online. Having generated the data you need, the application publishes it to a secure web portal. You give your customers a password to the portal (which comes as part of the application) and they can access the data whenever and wherever they want.
As a cloud-based solution, with no specialised hardware or installation needed, future-proofing is part of the package. If a post-Brexit UK government decides to modify any aspects of FIR to suit our domestic market, then, Infood will simply follow suit.
Sounds good? If you’d like to gain confidence in your compliance – and save days of time-consuming work with spreadsheets or outmoded nutritional systems – give us a call today on 01904 622888 or drop us a line at email@example.com . We can have you set up to beat the FIR phase two deadline in no time.
Department of Health technical guidance on nutrition labelling: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/207842/2013-06-19_Nutrition_Technical_Guidance.pdf.
Food Standards Agency – Food allergen labelling and information requirements under the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation No. 1169/2011 Technical Guidance:
Infood blog: Countdown to nutrition information: three top tips: http://cybakeinfood.co.uk/2015/12/14/countdown-to-nutrition-information-three-top-tips/
Martin Coyle is a director of RedBlack Software, the creator of Infood and Cybake.