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Labelling of food

This information is provided by:Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVONetherlands Enterprise Agency, RVONederlandse versie

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)
  • a production code or batch code
  • 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

Some ingredients may contain allergens. For instance nuts, crustaceans, or milk. You must state these on the label. 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. However, you are free to choose how to inform your customers.

A list of substances and products causing allergies or intolerances is provided in Annex II of the European Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers.

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, Nature and Food Quality. 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.

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).

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