Labelling sugar products

The law relating to the labelling of certain sugar products is governed by the Specified Sugar Products (England) Regulations 2003.

The Regulations apply to certain sugar products, intended for human consumption that are sold to consumers and catering establishments.

Reserved descriptions

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

  • Semi-white sugar;
  • Sugar or white sugar;
  • Extra-white sugar;
  • Sugar solution;
  • Invert sugar solution;
  • Invert sugar syrup;
  • Glucose syrup;
  • Dried glucose syrup;
  • Dextrose or dextrose monohydrate;
  • Dextrose or dextrose anhydrous;
  • Fructose.

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; or
  • 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 used is used in a context from which it is clear that the food does not contain a product which is one protected by a reserved description; or
  • the description, derivative or word used is a customary name and is not liable to mislead the consumer.


When sugar products protected by one of the reserved descriptions are sold they must be marked or labelled. The mark or label must contain the reserved description of the product in question. In the case of sugar solution, invert sugar solution and invert sugar syrup, the dry matter and invert sugar content of the product must also be stated. The Regulations set out permitted methods of analysing the dry matter and invert sugar content.

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.