Consumers have a right to expect that food matches the description on the label. Deliberate mislabelling is fraud and a criminal offence.
There are several laws to prevent dishonest labelling and misdescription, including:
- Food Safety Order
- Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations
- General Food Regulations
- Food Information Regulations
The description of food includes any of the following information:
- its name
- its ingredients
- its origin
- the processes it has undergone
The misdescription of food deceives consumers. It can trick people into buying something they would not otherwise buy. It has potentially serious health and safety implications for people who cannot eat certain foods because they are intolerant or allergic to them. It also leads to unfair competition.
Some examples of food misdescription include:
- Using a legal name for a food without the correct composition. For example, food sold as chocolate must have a certain amount of cocoa solids. Even if there are no compositional regulations for a food, such as fish fingers, it still must be described accurately.
- Extending a food - eg, adding offal to meat products without declaring it.
- Incorrectly labelling the true origin of a food or its ingredients in terms of animal species, plant variety, geographical origin or country.
- Incorrectly describing, or failing to describe, a process or treatment - such as not declaring irradiated food.
- Incorrectly stating the amount of an ingredient.