Food Labelling: Northern Ireland
The Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland is responsible for policy on general food labelling, food standards and nutrition labelling.
Falsely describing, advertising or presenting food is an offence, and there are a number of laws that help protect consumers against dishonest labelling and misdescription.
Consumers should be able to be confident with their choice of foods and be able to buy according to their particular requirements, be it for diet and health, personal taste and preferences, or cost. They want to be able to make comparisons with similar products, knowing the information on the label is correct.
They have a right to expect that the food bought matches the description given on the label and that they get what they pay for.
Part of the Food Standards Agency's role is to help prevent mislabelling or misdescription of foods. Mislabelling does not normally give rise to safety issues; nevertheless, when done deliberately it constitutes the crime of fraud.
In some cases, the names of foods we buy are protected by law, and must comply with certain compositional regulations.
In other cases, such as fish fingers, there may be no such standards, but the food still needs to be described accurately and should not be misleading.
Food authenticity is all about whether a food matches its description. If food is misdescribed, not only is the consumer being deceived, but it can also create unfair competition with the honest manufacturer or trader. The description of food refers to the information given as to its name, its ingredients, its origin or processes undergone.
Misdescription in itself is nothing new. Food fraud has been around for a very long time – probably as long as food itself has been sold.
In the past, basic foods such as flour, spices and beer were adulterated with cheaper ingredients. Nowadays misdescription can take many forms:
Not having the necessary composition for a legal name – in order to be called 'chocolate', for example, the food must have a certain amount of cocoa solids. Similarly, in order to be called a 'sausage', it must have certain amount of meat in it.
Substitution with cheaper ingredients – adding low cost ingredients to a more expensive product, such as diluting olive oil with vegetables oils.
Extending a food – perhaps with water or other fillers, such as adding water to orange juice, or offal to meat products and not declaring it.
Incorrect origin – incorrectly labelling the true origin of the food or ingredients.
Legally, there are a number of areas that regulate labelling, which are described below.
The Food Information Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014
This came into operation on 19 September 2014 and enables district councils in Northern Ireland to enforce the European Food Information to Consumers Regulation No 1169/2011 (FIC). Under these regulations, a change to the existing enforcement regime has been taken forward with a move away from the across-the-board use of frontline criminal offences to a more proportionate and targeted regime using improvement notices.
These regulations also revoke the majority of the provisions of the Food Labelling Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996, as amended for Northern Ireland. The compositional standards for cream and traditional UK cheeses will be retained until 2018 as will certain alcohol related terms including 'low alcohol' etc.
Food compositional legislation
There are more detailed compositional and labelling rules for certain foods, including:
European marketing standards
These define what can be properly described as:
Enquiries about labelling
For general labelling, food standards and nutrition labelling enquiries, please contact the FSA in Northern Ireland on 028 9041 7700 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why should you wash your hands?
Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps anyone can take to avoid becoming ill and spreading microorganisms to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean warm running water.
People handling food have a particular responsibility to protect the health of those for whom they are providing food. They must keep their hands clean!
How to wash your hands?
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm enough for comfort), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the tips of your fingers and thumbs, the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end. Twice.
Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Dry your hands using a disposable paper towels.
Did you know?
Wet hands are 5000 times more likely to pick up microorganisms than dry.
Water temperature directly affects hand washing efficacy
Not true. The temperature of water does not directly contribute to the removal of microorganisms. Water would need to be too hot for comfort if it was to kill organisms directly. When washing hands, water should be warm enough for comfort as a comfortable temperature encourages more thorough hand washing.
You don't have to wash your hands if you wear gloves
Not true. Gloves are not a substitute for hand hygiene. Some people handling food choose to wear gloves because they may not wish to handle a certain food type e.g. pork.
A glove is just another food contact surface. As they can become dirty and contaminated by bacteria, they must be changed frequently to prevent build-up of microorganisms or food. Gloves must not be worn for handling both food and other objects, for example money.
You must wash your hands thoroughly before putting on gloves. Tears or other damage will expose the hand which may then contaminate whatever is being handled.
If gloves are not worn correctly, they may compromise food hygiene by:
Is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent food borne illness. This includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potential health hazards. In this way food safety often overlaps with food defence to prevent harm to consumers.
The tracks within this line of thought are safety between industry and the market and then between the market and the consumer. In considering industry to market practices, food safety considerations include the origins of food including the practices relating to food labelling, food hygiene, food additives and pesticide residues, as well as policies on biotechnology, guidelines for the management of governmental import and export inspection and certification systems for foods.
In considering market to consumer practices, the usual thought is that food ought to be safe in the market and the concern is safe delivery and preparation of the food for the consumer.
Food can transmit disease from person to person as well as serve as a growth medium for bacteria that can cause food poisoning. In developed countries there are intricate standards for food preparation.
The five key principles of food hygiene that we all should adhere to are;
1.Prevent contaminating food with pathogens spreading from people, pets, and pests.
2.Separate raw and cooked foods to prevent contaminating the cooked foods.
3.Cook foods for the appropriate length of time and at the appropriate temperature to kill pathogens.
4.Store food at the proper temperature.
5.Do use safe water and safe raw materials.