Skip to main content  


Food composition and labelling

Food standards legislation set out specific requirements for the labelling, composition and, in some cases, safety parameters for specific high value foodstuffs which are potentially at risk of being misleadingly substituted with lower quality alternatives.

The legislation aims to ensure consumers are not mislead as to the nature of the food products they buy. It also helps make the playing field level for food producers, so they have established standards they can work to when producing well known or traditional foodstuffs.

Most legislation on food standards was developed in Europe, with full involvement from UK Government. Secondary legislation is then used to either implement the requirements or put in place enforcement powers, depending on the nature of the European legislation. There are compositional standards in legislation for a wide variety of products. These products include:

  • Bottled water
  • Dairy
  • Fats and oils
  • Bread
  • Jams
  • Chocolate

As well as European standards there are also international ones such as those produced by Codex which whilst they are not legally binding are generally considered good practice. They also help ensure fairness in international trade and make sure consumer interests are protected.

Further information

Defra is now responsible for standards legislation in England that is principally non-safety related. They publish guidance on the composition and labelling of a variety of foodstuffs.

In England, the FSA are responsible for policy related to food safety labelling including allergens.

The Department of Health and Social Care are responsible for nutrition policy and labelling. They have produced guidance to help food businesses comply with nutrition legislation.

Further guidance is also available from Business Companion. This guidance applies to the labelling of food which has been packaged by retailers, wholesalers or manufacturers for retail sale from premises other than at the place of packing.