New EU food labelling regulation to come into force by year end
Under new EU legislation, there will be mandatory labelling obligations for allergens, sugar, fat content, saturates, energy, carbohydrate and salt
18 September 2014
Major European food retailers “are ill-prepared and could fall foul” of new EU legislation – the Food Information Regulation (FIR), due to come into force at the end of December – according to Richard Brooks, internationally accredited translation expert and director of the Association of Language Companies.
“With the EU aiming to tackle the alarming rise in obesity rates within Europe via Food Information Regulation (FIR), I am concerned that many major food retailers are ill-prepared and may fall foul of the new legislation,” Brooks said. “Not only because the relabelling of all food packaging is required by the end of 2014, a massive undertaking in its self, but, more importantly, because it must be precise. There will be no margin for translation errors within the new legislation as the mandatory labelling obligations for allergens, sugar, fat content, saturates, energy, carbohydrate, salt etc could all have health implications if not 100% accurate.
“The Food Information Regulation (FIR) [is] abolishing confusing and inconsistent labels – food retailers will be required to adopt a unified system that makes it simple for the consumer to read exactly what is in packaged foods. The biggest challenge for food retailers, whether they decide simply to adjust their packaging to reflect the FIR or use the opportunity to rebrand entirely, will be to ensure that all of their supplier and packaging company’s labels are compliant with the FIR in every language and each EU country in which their products are sold.”
Brooks added: “In an industry where we translate information for over a thousand products a week I can attest that translating food packaging isn’t easy. There are those within the food industry who continue to make errors on foreign language packs, a problem perpetuated by polluted translation memories, unprofessional translators and using technology like Google Translate without a post-editing process. The most popular online translation tools returns the French translation of ‘may contain nuts’ as ‘Peut contenir des noix’ – looks right doesn’t it? Well noix is actually often understood to mean walnuts so the phrase returned is ‘may contain walnuts’. Are nuts and walnuts different? They certainly are if your child has a specific allergy and worryingly we see this common error all over packs in European supermarkets.”