17 July 2022

9 tips on food product presentation

Category: Food and commodities practice

We’re happy to give you an overview of the applicable law on presentation of food products in the Netherlands. The rules on food law are codified in many European Regulations, which are directly applicable in the Netherlands. The most important aspects of those European Regulations deals with the production process, the ingredients of the product and the presentation of the product to the consumer.

European framework on the presentation of food products

The general overarching Regulation is European Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 (the General Food Law) (hereinafter: “GFL”). In general, the GFL contains several provisions on the provision of information concerning foodstuffs, in both labelling as well as advertising the product. Article 16 GFL is the general provision therein and states:

‘Without prejudice to specific provisions of food law, the labelling, advertising and presentation of food and feed, including their shape, appearance and packaging, the packaging materials used, the manner in which they are presented, the surroundings in which they are displayed, and of the information which is made available about them through whatever means any channels, do not mislead the consumer.’

In addition to this general provision, specific Decrees to the Commodities Act (“Warenwet”) lay out rules and regulations for specific product(s) (groups). Also relevant for food companies: Novel Food in the Netherlands.

Specific provisions on the presentation of food products with regards to making claims

General labelling and claims requirements are set out in the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (hereafter “FIC”) (Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011) and the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (hereafter “NHCR”) (Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006). Nationally, there’s the Commodities Act (“Warenwet”), the Food Stuff Information (Commodities Act) Decree (“Warenwetbesluit informatie levensmiddelen”) and the Herbal Preparations (Commodities Act) Decree (“Warenwetbesluit Kruidenpreparaten”) that are most relevant.

The FIC defines food information as the information concerning a food and made available to the final consumer by means of a label, other accompanying material, or any other means including modern technology tools or verbal communication.[1] A claim is any message or representation, which is not mandatory under Community or national legislation, including pictorial, graphic or symbolic representation, in any form, which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular characteristics.

Additional legislation on the prestation of food supplements

This European legislation is a Directive, meaning it is not directly applicable as law in the Netherlands – as opposed to Regulations. The Directive has to be implemented into Dutch law. This is done in the Food supplements (Commodities Act) Decree (“Warenwetbesluit voedingssupplementen”) (hereafter: “the food supplements Decree”). The European Directive on food supplements provides thus a framework, which is specified in Dutch legislation. That means that the following conditions apply as well, without prejudice to the information requirements laid down in the Chapter before. In the case of food supplements, the nutrition information shall be provided in accordance with article 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of Directive 2002/46/EC. The food supplements Decree specifies those provisions. Also interesting to read: food supplements on the Dutch Market.

Food information provided for in a webshop

The FIC also contains rules on what food information a webshop should provide to the costumer when making a purchase.[2] In the case of prepacked foods all mandatory food information, except the date of minimum durability or the ‘use by’ date, should be available before the purchase is concluded and should appear on the material supporting the distance selling or be provided through other appropriate means clearly identified by the food business operator. When other appropriate means are used, the mandatory food information shall be provided without the food business operator charging consumers supplementary costs. Subsequently, all mandatory particulars of  the food product should be available at the moment of delivery by the webshop.

Our 9 tips on food product presentation

In presenting your product, it is most important to consider the following aspects and recommendations:

  • Never mislead the consumer with regards to the labelling as well as the presentation of the product (dealt with in European Regulation 178/2002)
  • Your product may qualify (in general) as a food, as well as (more specifically) a food supplement. The legislation on food supplements provides extra conditions.
  • In order to prevent a misleading label, not only the factual accuracy of the label has to be taken into account, but also the judgment of a normally informed and reasonably prudent and observant average consumer.
  • It is mandatory to list i.a. all the ingredients, any special storage conditions and/or conditions of use and instructions for use. This information must be presented in a clear way on the packaging.
  • Be aware that food product information can be classified as both a nutrition claim (in relation to the claims on energy) as well as a health claim (in relation to the claims on medical functions, such as functioning as e.g. an anti-depressant). Health claims can only be made if the claims are based on generally accepted scientific evidence, are well understood by the average consumer and are mentioned in the Community list.
  • Check if the product information holds a claim, i.e any message or representation, which is not mandatory under Community or national legislation, including pictorial, graphic or symbolic representation, in any form, which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular characteristics.
  • Food information should be accurate, clear and easy to understand for the consumer.  ‘Clear and easy to understand’ is further elaborated as meaning that mandatory information shall be marked in a conspicuous place in such a way as to be easily visible, clearly legible and, where appropriate, indelible
  • Never make any claims that can lead to customers using the product in a certain incorrect way, as you can be held responsible for the resulting damages.
  • Also webshops that offer food products need to comply with information rules following from legislation such as the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (hereafter “FIC”) (Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011).

The food law team of Blenheim id happy to help you navigate through food legislation.

[1] Article 1 (2) under a of FIC.

[2] Article 14 of FIC.