Labelling of food

Published by:
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

Do you sell or manufacture pre-packaged foods in the Netherlands? You must make sure these products have a label which includes information in Dutch about the product. If you sell unpacked or non-prepacked food you must also make sure the product information is available.

Labelling of pre-packaged foods

If you sell pre-packaged food, the label must have information on amongst others:

  • the product name
  • name and address of the manufacturer or responsible entrepreneur
  • the ingredients, including added water, aroma's and e numbers
  • the net quantity
  • quantities of ingredients in percentages
  • nutritional value
  • storage instructions and/or instructions for use (if necessary)
  • the minimum best-before date or latest consumption date (use by date)

The information must be easy to find and read. All the information must be available online as well. You may not provide any misleading information.

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Safety Authority (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit, NVWA) has drafted a Dutch-language manual for the labelling of food. You may also ask your sector organisation or a specialised adviser for help. Labelling of foodstuffs is regulated by the European Union.

Rules for non-packaged foods

If you sell or manufacture non-prepacked or unpacked foods for other businesses, the rules vary according to the type of packaging and type of sales. However, you must make sure that you supply the information to your buyers, so they can provide the mandatory food information to the final consumer.

Labelling of secondary packaging (omverpakking) for B2B sales

Secondary packaging, such as the cartons you use for pre-packaged consumer foods, must state:

  • the product name
  • the minimum best-before date or use-by date
  • storage instructions and/or instructions for use
  • name and address of the manufacturer or responsible entrepreneur

On the prepacked foods for consumers the rules for pre-packaged foods apply.

If you sell pre-packaged foods to large caterers you are allowed to supply this information on the commercial documents, if you can guarantee these documents are send before or with the delivery of the foods.

Packaging for larger units of food for production companies (B2B)

The packaging of larger units of food destined for production companies must state:

  • the product name
  • the production code or batch code

You may supply this information on the commercial documents. You must also make sure that all information that is mandatory for sales to consumers is communicated to your client so they can pass on the information to the consumer.

Non-packaged food for consumers

For non-packed food, for instance meat at the butcher’s, or salads at a greengrocer’s, you must make sure the information is clearly visible for the customer. You must name the food and you must provide information on allergens (in Dutch). You should either state the information:

  • on the item the food is presented in or on
  • on the menu (catering establishments)
  • on a sign placed above or underneath the item the food is presented in or on
  • you refer your customers to where they can read up on allergen information.

Information on allergens on labels

Some ingredients may contain allergens. For instance nuts, crustaceans, or milk. You must state these on the label. This applies to 14 allergens on the EU list.

If a product contains more than a certain amount of an allergen, you must warn about it on the label. This must be done in 1 of the following ways:

  • 'May contain xxx' (for example: 'May contain nuts’)
  • Not suitable for someone with xxx allergy' (for example: 'Not suitable for someone with soy allergy')

Since 1 January 2024, you cannot use phrases such as 'traces of xxx' or 'made in a factory where xxx is also present'. Manufacturers have until 1 January 2026 to change their labels accordingly.

If you sell non-prepacked foods, for example if you operate a business in the food and catering sector, you must provide your customers with adequate information on all food allergens used in the products you sell.

Organic food labelling

You are only allowed to label food as organic if you keep to all European and Dutch regulations, as well as the conditions Skal Biocontrole (in Dutch) has set. You must for instance take the environment and animal welfare into account as much as is possible. You can have your company certified by Skal Biocontrole (in Dutch). Skal is the official certifying body appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Nature. Once you are certified you may carry the EU organic logo.

EKO label

If you comply with the European rules on organic farming and the EKO standards (in Dutch), you may carry the EKO logo. Contact EKO or visit their Dutch-language website for more information.

Nutri-Score label

By using the European food choice Nutri-Score label (in Dutch) on your packaging, you show your consumers that they are buying a more healthy product in comparison to other, comparable products. The logo has a colour label from ‘A’ to ‘E’. The green ‘A’ stands for healthy and the red ‘E’ for less healthy. For example, because of the use of sugars, calories, and salt. You are not obliged to use the label. Do you want to use the Nutri-Score label? Then you must use the label on all your products. You must first register with Santé Publique France. You can do so from 1 January 2024. After registration you have 24 months to put the logo on your products and register the product data with the Netherlands Nutrition Centre (in Dutch) Read more on the main ground rules for using Nutri-Score (pdf).

Health and nutrition claims

You must comply with the European rules if you launch a foodstuff and make any claims regarding its nutritional value, benefit to health or medical advantages. The rules differ per claim and per product. You can also ask for information about claims from the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit, NVWA).

Best before and Use by dates and food waste

There are two ways in which food labelling indicates a date for either food quality or food safety:

  • Best before informs about food quality, after this the food is still safe to eat and it is up to the consumer to decide whether it can be eaten.
  • Use by informs consumers about the food safety of perishable products, these foods should not be consumed after this date.

In order to avoid food wastage, the European Commission urges governments to raise awareness and businesses and consumers to be mindful before throwing food away.

Reporting an incorrect label

Incorrect labelling may lead to risks for consumers. If you trade in products that are (possibly) labelled incorrectly, you must report this to the NVWA (in Dutch).