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Labelling and Pricing

The information on this page is to be used as a guideline only and for any specific questions you may wish to call the Food Standards Agency.

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Labelling & Pricing

Have you checked that prices are displayed and they are correct?
The prices of the food and drink you sell must be clearly indicated.

  • Price indications must be unambiguous, easily identifiable and clearly legible to consumers at the place where they choose their food.
  • If up to 30 items of food and drink are available for customers to buy, then the prices for all of them must be displayed.
  • If more than 30 items of food and drink are available for customers to buy, then the prices of at least 30 of them must be displayed. However, there is no restriction in place to prevent more prices, or indeed all prices, from being displayed.
  • Where prices are displayed in categories on a menu/price list (eg. sandwiches, drinks, confectionery), then at least five items must be priced in each category, unless there are fewer than 5 items available in a category. If this is the case, all the items in a particular category must be priced.
  • The prices of at least five soft drinks - if this number is available - must be indicated. It should be noted that the five soft drinks form part of the total number of prices required to be displayed, and are not additional to it.
  • The price of every fixed price meal, eg. fish and chips, must be displayed in addition to any other price that is required to be shown.

Don’t forget to check that prices are up-to-date and accurate.

Weights and Measurers
Do you describe the size or quantity of any item you sell?
If you make any statement about quantity such as the size of cans of drink or weight of burgers, make sure it is correct.
There are specific provisions regarding the sale of beer, wine or spirits. Please ask for a separate leaflet if you are a licensed premises.
Drink Descriptions
Have you checked that your drinks are accurately described?
If you advertise the brand name of a drink, you must supply that brand of drink. Brand names can appear on bottles, crown stamped spirit-measuring instruments (commonly referred to as optics), beer pump clips, price lists, menus, etc.

If a customer asks for a drink by the brand name, for instance "Pernod" or "Coca-Cola" and you have not got that brand, tell the customer if you offer an alternative.
Tobacco and Cigarettes
Do you sell cigarettes or tobacco?

The law says:

  • You must not sell cigarettes or any other tobacco product to anyone under the age of 18. This requirement also applies to your staff, for whom the law holds you responsible as well as them.
  • You must only sell cigarettes in quantities of at least 10 and in their original packaging.
  • It is legal for children properly employed to sell tobacco products, provided of course the sales are not to people who are themselves under 18.

Judging a buyer's age
If you sell age-restricted products, always ask young people to produce proof of their age. Many local authorities support ‘Proof of Age’ card schemes; contact your local Trading Standards Department to find out which card operates in your area. There may be material available which you can display in your mobile premises, telling young people where they can obtain proof of age cards. This way, if you have cause to refuse a sale, you can give youngsters some positive information.
Photo driving licences and passports are also acceptable as proof of age.
If you or any of your staff doubt whether a customer is 18, refuse to sell cigarettes to them. You don’t have to give a reason. Allowing a customer to persuade you against your better judgment could lead you to commit a criminal offence. Note, it is not an offence for children to buy cigarettes, only for you to sell them to children.
Display a clear sign where you sell cigarettes stating "It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18". These signs are required by law and your local Trading Standards should be able to provide them, or tell you where they can be obtained from.

Food Labelling for Caterers
Food Descriptions
Carefully check the labels or specifications for both ready prepared foods and ingredients you buy to prepare meals yourself.
Labelling Requirements
Where food is sold by a catering establishment ie. a takeaway, restaurant, fish and chip shop, etc, the law does not require any specific labelling, except that any descriptions used must not be false or misleading and, if any irradiated ingredient is used, this must be declared. If you think your food may contain irradiated ingredients, please ask Trading Standards for further advice.
Use of Descriptions
All descriptions must be accurate. In addition to written descriptions on menus, blackboards and in adverts, etc, any illustration or verbal description must also be accurate.
Before you write your menu, ensure that you look carefully at the labels supplied with the products. Be careful not to mislead the customer.

Common Problem Areas
Fish & Shellfish
  • Fish must be described by species (eg. cod, haddock, and plaice). It cannot simply be described as ‘fish and chips’, the notice must state the type of fish.
  • The name ‘scampi’ can only be used to describe the whole-tail variety of the species and cannot be used for formed fish produce. ‘Reformed scampi’ would be a more appropriate name, as it gives an indication of the true nature of the food. Most scampi used by caterers is pre-packed, therefore read the label carefully. A product with the bold name ‘Breaded Scampi’ may be further qualified ‘Scampi tails chopped and shaped in bread crumbs.’
  • Fish sticks, which contain little or no crab, cannot be described as crab.
  • Sandwiches cannot be described as ham if they are made with pork shoulder.
  • Descriptions such as ‘Steak’ or ‘Gammon’ mean that you are supplying the unprocessed product, therefore they cannot be used if the packets are labelled ‘reformed’ ‘chopped and shaped’ or ‘with added water and gelatin’. The menu must differentiate the processed product from the natural food.
  • Fish sticks, which contain little or no crab, cannot be described as crab.
  • If you use a weight to describe meat, it can be an approximate weight before cooking and may be given in imperial or metric eg. sirloin steak approx. 8oz.

Other Products
  • Where products are made from cheese substitutes consisting of a blend of dairy and vegetable oil products, they cannot be described as cheese but as ‘cheese flavour’ eg. tomato and cheese flavour pizza.
  • Be careful not to misdescribe bread and butter by using margarine or low-fat spread.
    Fish sticks, which contain little or no crab, cannot be described as crab.
  • Non-brewed condiment cannot be described, whether or not free of charge, either as ‘vinegar’ or in a distinctive container which customers may associate with vinegar.
  • Desserts cannot be illustrated with fresh fruit when tinned fruit is used.
  • The description ‘(Dairy) Ice Cream’ is deemed to indicate that the ice cream is made solely with milk fat. If it is not, then it must be qualified with the words ‘contains non milk fat’ or ‘contains vegetable fat.’ No other information which could mislead customers as to the type of ice cream, or the manufacturer of ice cream, must be given. Any ice cream sold from bulk and containing any additives must be accompanied by a notice which clearly states that the ice cream may contain additives.
  • The term ‘Onion Rings’ (which implies a product made from natural onion rings) cannot be used to describe a product made from chopped onion and potato.

Descriptive Terms
  • The term ‘fresh’ should not be used to describe reconstituted or previously frozen products.
  • The word ‘smoked’, eg. smoked salmon, cannot be used when the product has only had smoke flavouring added. ‘Smoke flavour salmon’ would be a better description.
  • A meal cannot be described as ‘roast’ (eg. roast beef) when the product used has been steamed and then flash roasted, or for a product made from meat which has been formed, chopped or shaped or contains other ingredients such as milk proteins.
  • The term ‘home-made’ should only be used for food which has been made on the premises and has not been mass-produced elsewhere.
  • Care should be taken when referring to the origin of a product.
  • Any ‘special claims’ made in relation to food must be justified eg. ‘suitable for vegetarians’. In particular, care must be taken with cheeses and products which may contain gelatin derived from animal bones.
  • Take care when using the term ‘nut free’. Nuts can kill. Make sure staff are aware of why some people ask about nuts. There are occasions when the presence of nuts or their by-products will not necessarily be apparent from the label. If it is not clear then consider labelling it, for example, "may contain nuts". Check the complete recipe of the products and check with suppliers of the ingredients where possible. If you are in any doubt as to what description to use, check with your supplier. If required, Trading Standards will advise you before you print your menus and price lists.

Genetically Modified Foods
What Is Required?
Food retailers and caterers have to be able to tell their customers which non-prepacked foods, if any, contain genetically modified soya or maize.
We would strongly recommend that you ask all of your suppliers whether their food contains GM ingredients, and keep this information safe in case of queries by your staff, customers or by Trading Standards Officers.
All foods containing genetically modified soya or maize ingredients will need to be clearly labelled, or you may display a notice which can be easily read by customers (at the place where they choose the food), stating that some of the foods sold on the premises contain genetically modified soya or maize or both, and that further information is available from staff.
Ensure staff are able to tell any customer who asks them whether a particular food contains genetically modified soya or maize.

Food Safety
Have you checked that the 'use by' date on food you have in stock has not expired? Check that the food you buy is marked with either a 'best before' or 'use by' date. Do not sell or use any food that has gone past its ‘use by’ date.
Foreign Language Labelled Foods
Retailers must make sure that all the food and drink they sell displays all the compulsory information such as the name of the food, a ‘best before’ or ‘use-by’ date, a list of ingredients, etc, on each container in English.
Please note - this is a summary of some of the legal provisions and is intended only as a guide.