In addition to allergen labeling for loose produce, one of the biggest changes of the FIR is the mandatory nutritional value table for packed goods. In other words, details of the quantities of specific nutrients which are contained in a product. Instead of the 14 major allergens, the so-called “Big 7” nutrients are highlighted and their quantities are clearly presented to the consumer. We have summarized the mandatory changes and asked ourselves how exactly the nutritional value table really benefits the customer!
From the old comes the new: the new nutritional value declaration
It is in fact already a very common sight: the small (or maybe large) table on a product’s packaging. These contain a list of different nutrients and show the quantities which are contained in the said product. Many food manufacturers have already opted to voluntarily include a nutritional table on their products, despite a five-year period having been set, whereby it’s implementation is mandatory only as of 13 December 2016.
But what has to be done from the end of 2016 that hasn’t been done before?
4 and 8 make 7
Until now, a product could voluntarily include a nutrient value table, with two options: the so-called “Small 4” or “Big 8”. And since we all like compromises (or since someone decided that seven – and really all seven – nutrients are relevant), the “Big 7” was launched. These now have to be provided in a specific order and in table format.
Voluntary becomes obligatory
Earlier on, the declaration of nutritional values was only obligatory in a few cases, such as when a foodstuff had a specific nutrient added, or when the product was marketed on the basis of the presence (or absence) of a specific nutrient, such as “sugar free” or “rich in fiber”. As of December 13 2016 however, all packaged foodstuffs must include a nutritional value table. Even here the saying applies: Exceptions prove the rule.
Sodium becomes salt
As the sodium content of a foodstuff is generally due to salt, it has been decided that to make things easier for consumers, sodium will be provided as salt. This is easily calculated: salt = sodium x 2.5
Nutritional tables in accordance with FIR
Every packaged product must include information for seven nutrients. These must always be presented in the same order in a table, and to the nearest 100g or 100ml. Why? So that consumers can quickly orient themselves and easily compare products.
The “Big 7”
- Total fat
In summary – the nutritional value table must look like this:
- Presentation of the “Big 7”
- In table format (unless there isn’t enough space)
- Nutritional values per 100mg or 100ml (energy in kJ or kcal)
- Text size for lower-case letters must be at least 1.2mm high. Capital letters and letters with vertical strokes, such as d or y for example, should be larger. This is all intended to ensure legibility! The contrast between the text and background should therefore be clear enough.
A laborious task: These pieces of information are still allowed!
As the early implementation of the nutritional value table and regulations on further provision of voluntary information show: there is great enthusiasm to inform consumers of nutritional values in the products. When you think about it, it’s obvious – the contents can be the selling point – the reason why consumers chose yogurt brand X over brand Y. In the same spirit, restaurateurs will surely want to show consumers that their meat comes from local, organic sources.
On one hand, you can provide more nutritional information. Information such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, polyhydric alcohols, starch, fiber, vitamins (calculated in mg or μg) and minerals (calculated in mg or μg) is allowed.
On the other hand, in addition to providing nutritional information per 100ml or 100mg, you can print out the nutritional value per portion. It is important however that you include the size of the portion and the number of portions contained within the food package.
When you don’t need to include a nutrient value table on your product!
- When you sell products which are exempt from the obligatory declaration of nutrient values. This includes for example herbs, spices, sweeteners, yeast, chewing gum or gelatin. You can find a detailed list of exempt products on the Austrian Chamber of Commerce’s website!
- When you sell packed products where the largest surface has an area of less than 25cm2.
- When you sell loose goods. Despite rumors of obligatory nutritional value tables on menus, this information is only required for packed goods. Menus remain slim and legible as always.
Are you unsure if your product is packed or loose? You can find the answer in our article “When are foods packed foods?“
The benefits of nutritional value tables for consumers
Regarding allergy labelling, the importance and the benefit is obvious – because for people with food allergies it is irrelevant if the food is packaged or loose – an allergy is still an allergy. What does a nutritional value table offer though? How does it benefit the consumer?
- Allows an easier comparison of products
The nutritional value table allows consumers to quickly see which nutrients are contained in a product. Thanks to the standardized nutrients, order and quantity, products can be more easily compared than previously.
- If reference values are provided: a simpler assignment of nutritional contents
In addition to the nutritional content of the “Big 7”, these can additionally be presented as a percentage of set reference values in relation to 100g or 100ml or a portion size. This makes it clear how much a product contributes to the average daily nutritional requirement for an adult (by reference to 8400kJ/2000kcal). The EU has oriented these reference values for women and thus derived reference values for energy and selected nutrients.
If information will be presented as a reference value, the same must be done for energy and all nutrients with the following text: “Reference value for an average adult (8400kJ/2000kcal)”. If this reference value is given per portion, it must include the calorific value per 100g or 100ml, so that consumers can see the energy content irrespective of the portion size. These reference values can form part of the nutritional value table or placed on the front of the packaging.
You must remember that reference values are simply an orientation to help consumers to better classify a foodstuff. These are estimates (and not exact values) for health people, and should not be mistaken for dietary recommendations for individuals.