Translating the Food Information Regulation Direction

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By December 2014, consumers will see a huge shift in the way their food packaging is presented and therefore how food packaging is translated. One of the latest EU directives, the Food Information Regulation (FIR) to be precise, aims to tackle rising obesity numbers by abolishing confusing and inconsistent labels and adopt a unified system that makes it simple to read just what is in packaged foods.

Obesity is becoming a big issue in Europe, with the World Health Organisation’s figures weighing in half the population as overweight, and up to 23% as obese. In the UK alone, the numbers of obesity have doubled from 1993, putting 24% of men and 26% of women in the UK in the obese category according to the Health and Social Care Centre.

With expanding waistlines being blamed on eating too much of the wrong foods, FIR aims to set up strict guidelines about how companies choose to display their ingredients and content breakdowns. The purpose of this is to make it easier for consumers to read the carbohydrate, salt and fat breakdowns, as well as to highlight allergens, so that they can make more informed choices about the food they put into their trolley.

Under current guidelines, there is no obligation to provide nutritional values, with most retailers choosing to add them due to customer demand or to increase brand value. In fact some supermarkets now even include a traffic light system on the front of their packaging so speedy shoppers can make quick decisions based on lots of green being good, or red being bad (or ignoring the whole system and picking what looks tastiest on the packet). However this can be confusing, with supermarkets skewing the portion sizes in their favour to mislead information, and hiding the not so calorie savvy truth in complicated tables on the back.

As of December 2014, all pre-packed foods will be subject to mandatory labelling obligations including clearly displaying energy, fat, saturates, carbohydrate and salt content, minimum font sizing (1.2mm for surfaces areas over 80cm, or 0.9mm for those under), and all allergens highlighted clearly in the ingredients list, or given on non-packaged foods. As well as this, all meat products will have to show their country of origin, great for those still shuddering over the recent horse meat scandal.

For consumers, this spells great news. For those that take notice of their packaging or are particularly health conscious, or those with allergies, the directive will make non-existent labels appear and reform existing poor, confusing or misleading ones. The biggest change will come from the suppliers and packaging companies making sure all their labels are compliant, in each and every EU country their products are sold in. In particular, when dealing with ingredients and allergens, accurate packaging labelling is critical at the best of times, yet with virtually every food label in the EU having to change under new measures, nobody wants to be the one to get it wrong.

As you may have seen from one of our previous posts, we are working with several high street retailers to help them to provide the correct information to their customers/consumers all over the EU. Some of our clients have taken this as an opportunity to re-brand their packaging and product offering and some are simply adjusting the packs to reflect the new guidelines.

The process and approach to each is similar. That is we:

  • Integrate the EU guidelines into our translation glossaries. We use memoQ server to manage all the translation assets (it’s the best tool on the market and comes highly recommended). We worked with the EU, Leatherhead, Ashbury Labelling and a few other experts in this area to create a termbase which is shared between all stakeholders on the project. This is continually maintained throughout the project by us and is a vital resource.
  • Work closely with our artwork partners to produce processes which can rapidly publish text. We’ve now completely integrated our own workflows into that of our artwork partners. Often this meant working with legacy systems which have been in place at our clients operations for many years. We have our own in-house developers who work on issues like this almost 24/7. We now have an xml solution in place which saves considerable time in the artwork process.
  • Develop QA processes to check thousands of files a week. These are all delivered as pdf for our linguists to sign off before going to print. The capability of this department has been considerably increased over the last few months to handle the growth of work.

Over the next couple of months we’ll produce translations for tens of thousands of food products which will be consumed all over Europe. Using this process we’re able to guarantee that they are all right first time and in line with new legislation.


Considering taking your products to other markets? Check out our article on How to Ensure Global Success.