Food standards

Food standards

Food safety standards ensure you can eat food that is free from danger or disease.

There are standards covering:

  • food quality
  • what is in food
  • items that touch food
  • labelling
  • allergens
  • presentation
  • advertising

What food contains

There are legal standards for what food such as fish, meat, jams, chocolate and bottled water contains.

These usually apply to foods that you would expect to be of a certain quality and which could be replaced with lower quality ingredients. 

Businesses must follow these rules and only claim a food is a particular item (for example a pork sausage, fish finger or beef burger) if it is made up of the right ingredients to meet the legal definition of that product.

More information on food composition standards can be found on the Government website.

Food labelling

Usually food is either pre-packed or sold loose and both are subject to different labelling rules.

Pre-packed food

Pre-packed foods are required to have a label which must show certain information. 

Labels must be accurate and display information clearly. 

Information should include:

  • the legal name of the food
  • a list of ingredients
  • allergen information
  • a quantity declaration of ingredients (QUID)
  • net quantities
  • storage conditions
  • date labelling
  • the name and address of who has produced it
  • its country of origin or where it came from (place of provenance)
  • preparation instructions
  • nutritional information

Extra information is also needed if a product contains:

  • sweeteners or sugars
  • aspartame (an artificial sweetener) and colourings
  • liquorice
  • caffeine
  • polyols (naturally occurring sugar alcohols)

Pre-packed foods for direct sale

Food which is prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) need to be labelled with the name of the food and a full ingredients list, with any allergens emphasised. 

For more information see the Food Standards Agency's guide to allergen labelling.

Non pre-packed food

Food that is sold loose, such as sandwiches or cakes in a deli, have fewer labelling rules but information for customers must still be provided. 

As a minimum a business must display:

  • the name of the food
  • any allergens present in the food
  • the ingredients (on products containing meat)

Allergens

Food businesses must provide allergen information and follow allergen labelling rules.

That includes:

  • providing information for both prepacked and non-prepacked food and drink.
  • managing allergens effectively during food preparation.

For more information please see our allergen control page.

    Items that touch food

    It is important that anything such as packaging, cutlery, dishes or utensils used when storing, cooking or serving food do not contain chemicals that may transfer onto it. 

    These chemicals may change the contents of the food, its taste or odour and at unacceptable levels could be harmful to people's health.

    Anything intended to come into contact with food at any stage of production, processing or service should be food grade and must display an approved logo.

    Advertising food

    There are strict rules that say what you can and cannot do when advertising food.

    These are laid out in the advertising codes of practice and are enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

    Businesses must make sure that any claims made about their food are accurate and can be verified.

    These claims might include that food is:

    • fresh
    • traditional
    • original
    • home-made
    • halal

    There are also rules covering the:

    • advertising of junk food to children
    • promotion of products to benefit someone's health
    • foods for a particular nutritional purpose, such as baby foods or infant formula
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