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05 August 2016 / article

Belgium clarifies scope of certain categories of food exempt from labelling obligations

On 28 July 2016, Belgian authorities published an official document interpreting the concepts of food prepacked for direct sale, and food that is supplied in small quantities directly from the manufacturer to the final consumer or to local retail establishments directly supplying the final consumer.

Food labels on fruit

While reference to these concepts is made in Regulation n° 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, no definition thereof was provided. As these categories of food benefit from certain exemptions in terms of labelling obligations, this resulted in legal uncertainty for the industry.

First, food that is prepacked for direct sale is not subject to any of the heavy labelling requirements imposed to prepacked foodstuffs. Second, food directly supplied by the manufacturer of small quantities of products to the final consumer, or to local retail establishments directly supplying the final consumer does not have to label a nutrition declaration.

Food prepacked for direct sale

Belgian authorities have defined food prepacked for direct sale as being:

1. prepacked foodstuffs, on the package of which a best before date or use-by date is indicated and, which are sold :

  • either in the business unit where the food is produced. This expressly excludes processes such as cutting, slicing, portioning, defrosting, adding water to a dehydrated food, (re)conditioning, and other manipulations exclusively intended to enhance the presentation of the product;
  • or in a business unit that is run by the same operator as the one running the business unit where the food has been produced, provided that the latter runs a maximum of five business units.

or

2.  prepacked foodstuffs sold in the business unit where they were packed, provided that:

  • the product is sold no later than the day following the packaging; and
  • a packing date is indicated on the package, or the operator is able to prove to the authority that the food was effectively sold the day following the packaging.

Food directly supplied by the manufacturer of small quantities of products to the final consumer or to local retail establishments directly supplying the final consumer

For this category of foodstuffs, the authorities clarified that:

  • small quantities’ means quantities produced by an operator that is either a micro-undertaking or a business unit which occupies a maximum number of four persons;
  • local retail establishments are retail establishments directly supplying end consumers located within a radius of 80 km of the production establishment.

No harmonisation, however

While this interpretative document is welcomed by the Belgian food industry, it remains that – with different national interpretations possible (Ireland is, for example, in the course of preparing its own legal definition) – the exceptions granted by the FIC Regulation n° 1169/2011 to these two categories of food will suffer from different implementations within the EU.   

To view the interpretative document, click here.



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