Overarching legislation

With the exception of gluten, there is no specific UK or EU legislation covering “free-from” claims. “Free-from” claims are regulated in accordance with the provisions of General Food Law, to make sure the food is safe for consumption; and the regulations on food information, to make sure product information is not misleading and is accurately communicated.

General Food Law, Regulation (EC) No 178/2002

Article 14 on Food Safety Requirements establishes that:

  1. Food shall not be placed on the market if it is unsafe.
  2. Food shall be deemed to be unsafe if it is considered to be:
    1. injurious to health;
    2. unfit for human consumption.
  3. In determining whether any food is unsafe, regard shall be had:
    1. to the normal conditions of use of the food by the consumer and at each stage of production, processing and distribution, and
    2. to the information provided to the consumer, including information on the label, or other information generally available to the consumer concerning the avoidance of specific adverse health effects from a particular food or category of foods.

Food Information to Consumers, Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011

Article 7 on Fair Information Practices establishes that:

Food information shall not be misleading, particularly:

  1. as to the characteristics of the food and, in particular, as to its nature, identity, properties, composition…
  2. by attributing to the food effects or properties which it does not possess;
  3. by suggesting that the food possesses special characteristics when in fact all similar foods possess such characteristics.

Points (a) and (b) mean:
If your product is not produced to the principles laid down in this guidance and to the specified criteria, your product is unlikely to be free from the specified allergen and therefore you should be careful not to present it in such a way that may mislead the consumer into believing the product is free from the specified allergen and therefore suitable for them. In this case, phrases that could have a similar meaning to “free-from” or pictorials that can give the impression that the product is suitable for those allergic to an allergen, should be avoided.

Point (c) means:
You cannot claim “free-from” on a product when all similar products would be “free-from”

Next page: Legislation (continued)

Last reviewed: 12 Nov 2015