Labelling milk products

The law relating to the labelling of milk products is governed by the following regulations:

  • The Food Labelling Regulations 1996;
  • The Condensed and Dried Milk (England) Regulations 2003;
  • The Condensed and Dried Milk (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2008;
  • The Casein and Caseinates Regulations 1985;
  • The Casein and Caseinates (Amendment) Regulations 1989;
  • The Spreadable Fats (Marketing Standards) and the Milk and Milk Products (Protection of Designations) (England) Regulations 2008.

Labelling raw milk

In addition to the general requirements set out in the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 there are some specific requirements relating to raw milk (excluding raw milk from buffaloes).

It is a requirement that the container in which raw milk is sold be marked or labelled with the words “This milk has not been heat-treated and may therefore contain organisms harmful to health”.

Where raw milk is sold at a catering establishment and is not prepacked it is a requirement that the container in which the milk is sold be labelled or that there be a ticket or notice that is readily discernible by an intending purchaser at the purchase place stating “milk supplied in this establishment has not been heat-treated and may therefore contain organisms harmful to health.

Labelling products consisting of skimmed milk together with non-milk fat

It is a requirement that the container in which any product consisting of skimmed milk together with non-milk fat which is capable of being used as a substitute for milk (other than infant formulas, follow-on formulas and products specially formulated for infants or young children for medical purposes) is sold be prominently marked or labelled with a warning that the product is unfit, or not to be used, as food for babies.

Labelling condensed and dried milk

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

  • Partly dehydrated milk (condensed / evaporated milk);
  • Totally dehydrated milk (dried milk)

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 or marketing 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.

When condensed and dried milk is sold it must be marked or labelled. The mark or label must contain the reserved description of the product.

In the case of condensed high-fat milk, condensed milk, partly skimmed condensed milk, sweetened condensed milk, partly skimmed sweetened condensed milk and dried milk (apart from dried skimmed milk or skimmed-milk powder) to state the percentage of milk fat, expressed by weight in relation to the finished product. Such information should appear near the name of the product. In the case of products weighing less than 20 grams per unit which are packed in an outer packaging such information need appear on the outer packaging only.

In the case of condensed milk it is necessary to state the percentage of fat-free dried milk extract. Such information should appear near the name of the product. In the case of products weighing less than 20 grams per unit which are packed in an outer packaging such information need appear on the outer packaging only.

In the case of dried milk it is necessary to provide a recommendation as to the method of dilution or reconstitution and details of the fat content of the product when diluted or reconstituted. It is also necessary to state that the product is “not intended as a food for infants under 12 months”. In the case of products weighing less than 20 grams per unit which are packed in an outer packaging such information need appear on the outer packaging only.

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

Labelling caseins and caseinates

Caseins and caseinates are a type of protein found in milk. Like condensed and dried milk such products have “reserved descriptions” and are subject to similar requirements as to labelling.

Vitamin content for spreadable fats

Subject to certain exemptions, it is illegal to sell margarine unless in every 100 grams it contains between 800 and 1,000 micrograms of vitamin A and between 7.05 and 8.82 micrograms of vitamin D and a proportionate amount in any part of 100 grams.

Failure to comply with the Regulations

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