Selling your products in another country sounds like a fantastic opportunity. In most cases, it is. However, it’s also more complicated than selling goods in just one country. Multilingual labelling is particularly tricky. Different regions have different requirements, and if your labels are found wanting, your products will likely end up stuck in limbo at the border.
Obviously, the potential business impact of such a mishap is enormous. If your products are stuck at the border, they aren’t selling. If they aren’t selling, you’re losing money.
So, how do you get them moving again? The exact steps you need to take will vary depending on where your products are stuck, and why they’ve been barred from entry. That said, we’ve put together a guide to common labeling problems and solutions to get you started. Here’s what to do if your products get stuck at the border.
Common Labeling Issues
Labels matter. Here are 3 reasons your product labels might be rejected at the border.
Missing allergen information
Food allergies are a hot topic these days. Their frequency and severity seem to be on the rise, as is media attention on the subject. Food labelling regulations give allergy sufferers the ability to do things the rest of us take for granted. Like going to the shop, buying a chocolate bar, and eating it without going into shock.
When allergens aren’t labelled, tragedy can result. For example, in the UK, two people died recently due to incorrectly marked sandwiches from popular ready-to-eat chain Pret A Manger. One victim, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, was only 15 years old and allergic to sesame. She read the label on the sandwich she picked up at the airport. Unfortunately, it didn’t list the sesame seeds baked into the bread. Under the current “fresh foods exception,” it didn’t have to. She collapsed on the plane and died a few days later.
Incidents like these generate new labelling laws that can vary by country. The “fresh foods” loophole is likely to close soon in the UK, with the expected passage of “Natasha’s law.”
In the United States, sesame seeds aren’t required to be listed as an allergen. (They are required to be listed and appropriately highlighted in processed food labels in Europe, Canada and Australia, however.)
With so many different regulations in play, it’s easy to see how allergen information could end up missing or listed improperly, even with the best of intentions.
Labels need to be accurate. A translation error on your product labels is more than just an error- it’s a barrier that will keep your products out of your target markets and possibly expose you to legal liability as well.
Despite their potential seriousness, translation errors in labels are not uncommon. For example, in 2013, our team discovered that a large global retailer had a mistake on their labelling, possibly caused by their former translation agency cutting corners with Google Translate. ‘May contain nuts’ was translated into French as ‘Peut contenir des noix.” The problem? “Noix” translates as “walnuts,” not “generic tree nuts.”
Translation errors on labels can be hilarious to bystanders (see 10 Food Packs We Didn’t Translate if you need a laugh today). But it’s not quite as funny when your business is the one losing money as a result.
Labels can be non-compliant for a variety of reasons other than missing or incorrectly listed allergens, or translation errors. For example, the EU sets standards for font sizes to ensure consumers don’t miss the fine print. Even if you’re just selling products within your home country, labelling regulations can be a moving target. Multilingual labeling is even more complicated. The more markets you enter, the more rules there are to comply with.
Label regulations aren’t there to make retailers’ jobs more difficult, though it might seem that way at times. Generally, these regulations are enacted as a result of health, safety or other concerns relevant to consumers in a given country. Getting it right is a matter of trust.
So, what happens when you inadvertently get it wrong? You need to fix the problem, so you don’t waste your merchandise. Time is of the essence, especially when it comes to food products that have a short shelf life.
Overstickers: The Simple Solution to Get Your Merchandise Moving Again
The easiest way to fix labelling errors is with compliant overstickers. These can be quickly printed and placed over the existing labels on your products, making them once again legal to sell in your target market.
The process is simple:
- Translate the original label into all the desired languages. If your goods are destined for many different regions, it’s easy to make the overstickers multilingual.
- Check compliance.
- Desktop publish and print.
At K International, we can provide correctly translated, compliance-checked overstickers with fast turnaround time, cutting waste even for perishable items.
Of course, it’s still better for your products to make it through border controls the first time, every time. With the right language support, there’s no reason for your business to worry about products getting stuck at the border due to labelling issues.
At K International, our consultants can help your organisation design a translation workflow that ensures all labels are correctly translated and compliant with the laws wherever you do business.
Are your products stuck at the border right now? Contact us ASAP, and we’ll get you sorted!
Looking for a retail translation partner that can help you navigate the complexity of international regulations? Our retail translation experts would love to hear from you!
If you’d like to learn more, visit International Labelling: The Key to Global Success.