EU Food Information for Consumers. The Food Information for Consumers regulation incorporates EU Regulation 1169/2011, which pertains to mandatory labeling changes for food items sold in Europe, including imported food or food sold online to European vendors. The goal is to protect consumers’ health by requiring labels that properly list allergens, are more legible and simple to understand, list origins of unprocessed meat, and provide thorough nutrition information on processed foods.
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Nutrition information became a requirement on packaged foods as of Dec. 13, 2016, but a required format has yet to be determined. However, food and beverage manufacturers selling products to any EU country should expect to comply with a required format in the near future. A number of these formats are currently being tested with the use of color throughout the label to call out the healthfulness of a product. In fact, a 3-month trial in French supermarkets revealed that a nutrition color system is likely to influence consumer purchasing behavior. As a result, France’s Ministry of Health is encouraging manufacturers to use the new 5-color nutrition label format based on a product’s “Nutri-Score” to help consumers make better informed food choices.
With so many broad-sweeping reforms underway and more ahead, it’s important to leverage a barcode labeling software solution that can accommodate both voluntary and mandatory requirements. For example, certain barcode label software can leverage database connections and variable data within the software’s label design interface to easily print Nutrition Facts labels for dozens of products using one compliance label template. In addition to streamlining nutrition labels, label design software reduces the room for human error because it leverages existing databases, automates variable data, and limits user permissions.
Other features can also meet labeling requirements. For example, TEKLYNX’ CODESOFT offers VisualBasic (VB) Scripting—a tool that can be used to stop an incorrect print job. If text is not legible or does not exceed a minimum font size, VBScripting cancels the print job. It also allows for greater flexibility as advanced VBScripting lets users create tables that automatically identify and tag allergens in existing databases.
What’s Next in Food Labeling
Over 75 percent of processed foods found on U.S. grocery store shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients. This staggering percentage, along with growing consumer concern for such ingredients, led to U.S. bill S. 764, a federal standard mandating the labeling of foods containing GMOs. The bill allows for different ways to include GMO information on food packaging, such as text or a symbol that identifies GMO ingredients, or a QR code that links to more information regarding the ingredients. In addition, short- and long-term plans are in place for the FDA to introduce implementation policies for GMO labeling.
Another growing consumer concern relates to the “best by” date on food products. Printing this date is common practice in the U.S., but it’s not required by law, which means companies can choose different standards to follow such as “sell-by,” “best by,” “use-by,” and “best before.” This difference in labeling language causes confusion among consumers and leads to increases in food waste.
To address this issue, bipartisan legislation was introduced in 2016 to standardize these dates. Known as the Food Date Labeling Act, the act would require date stamps on all packaged food to follow a uniform system. The bill is heavily predicted to pass, meaning food manufacturers should have a food date labeling system in place to ensure compliance.
How does barcode labeling software play a role in helping food and beverage manufacturers comply with these regulations? The answer lies within the capabilities of the barcode labeling software itself. Companies should select a software that can easily generate QR codes, features variable field styling, rich text fields, and “What You See Is What You Get,” or WYSIWYG, label design. All of these features improve the ability to build responsive, adaptable labeling environments.
Faced with an ever-changing list of labeling regulations and customer preferences, one thing remains clear for food and beverage manufacturers: They must equip themselves with dynamic labeling environments to efficiently and accurately meet these demands. A barcode labeling audit is a great starting point for companies. Its insights can help determine whether or not the company’s labeling system, and ancillary support systems, is prepared to meet required labeling standards in the most efficient and accurate manner possible. Doing so will position food and beverage manufacturers for long-term labeling success.