Labelling honey

The law relating to the labelling of honey is governed by the Honey (England) Regulations 2003 as amended by the Honey (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2005.

The Regulations apply to honey, intended for human consumption that is sold to consumers and catering establishments.

Reserved descriptions

The following descriptions of products are referred to as “reserved descriptions”:

  • Blossom honey / nectar honey;
  • Honeydew honey;
  • Comb honey;
  • Chunk honey / cut comb in honey;
  • Drained honey;
  • Extracted honey;
  • Pressed honey;
  • Filtered honey;
  • Baker’s honey.

The Regulations set out detailed criteria which must be met before a product can be described using one of these reserved descriptions.

The Regulations prohibit the sale of food with a label which bears, comprises or includes a reserved description unless:

  • the product corresponds with the reserved description for that product in question;
  • the description, derivative or word used is used in a context which indicates that it relates only to an ingredient of the food in question; or
  • the description, derivative or word is used in a context whereby and it cannot be confused with one of the reserved descriptions.

Labelling

When honey products are sold they must be marked or labelled. The mark or label must contain the following information:

  • the reserved description of the product;
  • in the case of baker’s honey the words “intended for cooking only” (such words must appear on the label in close proximity to the product name);
  • the country or countries of origin where the honey was harvested. However, if the honey originates from more than one Member State or third country it is permissible to replace the country of origin with the words “blend of EC honeys”, “blend of non-EC honeys” or “blend of EC and non-EC honeys” as appropriate;

In the case of filtered honey and baker’s honey it is illegal to include information relating to floral or vegetable origin, regional, territorial or topographical origin or specific quality criteria on the label or any marking.

In the case of compound foodstuffs which contain baker’s honey and which are described as containing honey the full list of ingredients must include the term “baker’s honey”.

Where filtered honey or baker’s honey is sold in bulk containers or packs such bulk containers or packs must be labelled with the reserved description of the product and any trade documents must clearly indicate the reserved description of the product. Trade documents include all documents relating to the sale, transportation, storage and delivery of the product.

The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 contain requirements as to the manner in which food should be marked or labelled.

Failure to comply with the Regulations

Contravention of the Regulations is a criminal offence punishable by a fine. However, a defence is available in certain circumstances in relation to exported products.