Although product markings should be observed in the case of all purchases, it is especially important for food products.
Food labels should not be misleading. According to the requirements established for the marking of food products, their labels have to include correct information about the nature of the food, tis components, origin and other important characteristics.
Labels of food products are required to include, among other things, the name of the product; list of ingredients (in descending order of quantity used); net quantity; minimum durability or expiration and use-by date; conditions for use or storage; information of the manufacturer, packer or seller; the product’s country of origin (if lack of this information might mislead the consumer).
The minimum font for food product labelling is 1.2 millimetres, which represents the height of a lower case letter. The minimum font size is 0.9 millimetres for packages that do not have their largest taking up less than 80 square centimetres. The text should be of a contrasting colour compared to its background.
Ingredients that may cause allergies should be emphasised in the ingredients list with a certain font style, font size or background colour. In the case of unpackaged foods, including dishes offered at catering establishments, ingredients that can cause allergies should be noted at the point of sale (e.g. in the product leaflet at the culinary counter of a store).
The name of the food product should include information or information has to be added about the physical condition or special treatment of the food (e.g. powdered, freeze-dried, deep-frozen, concentrated, smoked) when lack of such information could mislead the consumer.
In the case of meat and fish products sold by number, the name of the product has to include the eater content of the product (if water makes up more than 5% of the weight of the final product).
Specific requirements have been established for certain food products. For example, frozen vegetables or fish fingers are required to have “do not refreeze after thawing” written on the package, and food supplements have to have a warning that instruct consumers to keep them away from the reach of children.
Always check that food products have not passed their expiration date before purchasing them at the store. Be attentive of markings such as “best before” and “use by”.
If a food product label has a marking of “best before”, it will retain its quality at least until the date marked on the package (if storage conditions are met).
If a food product label has a marking of “use by”, then you are dealing with highly perishable food that can only be sold and used up to that date.
“Best before” food will not become harmful to you if you have adhered to its storage conditions. This is why it is allowed to sell products with this marking after the date has passed, however, the products have to be separate from other goods and include a notice with corresponding information.
Food that has passed its “use before” deadline can be harmful to you as microorganisms that present a health hazard may begin developing in it. Remember that products with this marking must not be sold after the “use before” date has passed.
If you notice a product that has expired or does not have a corresponding marking, turn to the store personnel and ask them to remove such goods from sale.
Do not buy food if
- the surroundings are dirty;
- the seller’s clothing and hands look dirty and unkempt;
- the packaging of the product has been damaged;
- the product has not been stored in the right conditions;
- it is clearly visible that the food product has melted and then been frozen again.
If you have bought a food product before its expiration date, however, it becomes apparent after opening its packaging that the product has gone bad, be sure to return to the store you bought it from immediately. Take the receipt with you and write an application for a refund at the store. In most cases vendors solve these complaints on a case-by-case basis and generally in favour of the consumer.