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Food standards

Food safety standards ensure consumers have access to food that is free of dangerous or diseased substances.

Published: 10 February 2021

Last updated: 18 February 2021

Food Standards requirements cover the quality, composition, labelling, presentation and advertising of food.

Food businesses must ensure any products they produce and sell are labelled appropriately and all information required by the legislation is displayed for customers, either on packaging, labels, notices, invoices or menus.

Proprietors must also ensure that any claims made regarding their foods are accurate and can be verified by scientific and/or documented evidence (such as fresh, traditional, original, home made, halal and more).

Food standards legislation typically covers the following areas:

  • allergens and allergen labelling
  • food quality
  • food composition
  • food labelling
  • food presentation
  • advertising of food
  • materials or articles in contact with food

The frequency of a Food Standards inspection is determined by the 'risk rating' given to the premises at the previous inspection. Most premises receive an inspection every one to two years and these are usually carried out at the same time as a Food Hygiene inspection, however, premises judged to be 'low risk' are subject to an 'alternative enforcement activity.'

This means they will receive an alternative type of enforcement to an inspection. Examples include a survey or a questionnaire.

Some businesses may be due for a food safety and food standards inspection in the same year. If it is possible, these visits will be done at the same time.

Allergens and allergen labelling

Food business operators are required to provide allergen information and follow labelling rules as set out in food law. 

This means that food business operators must:

  • provide allergen information to the consumer for both prepacked and non-prepacked food and drink
  • handle and manage food allergens effectively in food preparation

Please refer to our allergens and allergen labelling page for further information.

Food composition

There are legal standards for the composition of food such as fish, meat, jams, chocolate and bottled water

‘Food compositional standards’ generally apply to foods that consumers expect to be of a certain quality and are at risk of being substituted for lower quality alternatives. You must follow UK compositional rules and only apply ‘reserved descriptions’ when foodstuffs have to meet a certain composition, (for example, sausages, fish fingers and burgers).

Further information on specific compositional standards can be found at GOV.UK.

Food labelling

From the 1 January 2021, new rules apply to labelling of food.

The European Food Information to Consumers (FIC) Regulation 1169/2011 sets out the European rules on food labelling. The Food Information (England) Regulations 2014 enables the European labelling requirements to be enforced within the UK. Generally, food is either pre-packed or sold loose and both are subject to different labelling rules.

Pre-packaged foods

All prepacked foods are required to display a food label which must contain certain mandatory information. All labels must be accurate, not mislead the customer and display information clearly. The following should be included on food labels:

  • the legal name of the food
  • list of ingredients
  • allergen Information
  • quantitative declaration of ingredients (QUID)
  • net quantity
  • storage conditions
  • date labelling
  • name and address of manufacturer
  • country of prigin or place of provenance
  • preparation instructions
  • nutritional declaration

If food products contain any of the following, then they are subject to additional labelling requirements:

  • sweeteners or sugars
  • aspartame and colourings
  • liquorice
  • caffeine
  • polyols

Non pre-packed foods

Foods that are sold loose such as sandwiches or cakes in a deli have fewer labelling rules but are still subject to labelling requirements. They must as a minimum be displayed with the following information:

  • the name of the food
  • the allergens present in the food
  • the quantitative ingredients declaration (QUID), on products containing meat (except in a catering environment)

Find out more information on food labelling requirements at the Food Standards Agency and GOV.UK webpages

Further guidance on the legal requirements for food labelling

Advertising of food

There are strict rules that say what you can and cannot do when advertising foods. These are laid out in the advertising Codes of Practice and are enforced by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

Examples are the advertising of junk food to children, the promotion of products for health benefit or foodstuffs for particular nutritional purposes such as baby foods or infant formula.

Materials or articles in contact with food

It is important that materials or articles such as packaging, cutlery, dishes or utensils used when storing, cooking or serving food do not contain chemicals that may transfer onto food. These chemicals may change the foods composition, taste and odour at unacceptable levels that can be harmful to human health.

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


Food grade packaging logo