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Food Labelling

I recently bought a ‘100% pure’ fruit juice, but at home I discovered that the front and the side labels claimed different ingredients, and that it also contained modified ingredients. What are my rights?

Labels on food products tell us about their ingredients and their nutritional values. Often, they are the only sources of information we have about a product. Therefore, in order to ensure a high level of consumer protection, all claims made on foods must give the consumer the necessary information to make an informed choice. By law in Ireland, food labels should be clear, legible, written in English (or both English and Irish), easy to understand, and without confusing or misleading information. If you have a complaint regarding a misleading food label, you should contact the Food Safety Authority, or your local Environmental Health Officer. In this case, the juice was not ‘as advertised’, so as long as you haven’t drunk it, you are entitled to a refund or replacement from the retailer.

I bought a new yogurt, advertised as helpful for digestive problems. I tried it, but without any benefits. Then I discovered that it contains the same ingredients as traditional yogurts, but at twice the price. What can I do?

Increasing interest among consumers in a healthy diet has resulted in the rise of health claims on advertising and food labels. In order for a claim to be justified, it is necessary that the substance that is the subject of the claim is present in the food in sufficient quantities, or that the substance is absent or present in suitably reduced quantities, to produce the claimed nutritional or physiological effect. In addition, a significant amount of the substance producing the claimed effect should be provided by a quantity of the food that can reasonably be expected to be consumed. Under EU law, foods bearing nutrition and health claims must be labelled and advertised in a truthful and meaningful manner. EU Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 (on nutrition and health claims made on foods) specifies the conditions for these claims. If you feel the yogurt you bought was advertised in a misleading way, you could also complain to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland.

My son recently bought 3 chocolate cream desserts, taking advantage of a special offer: buy two get one free. When he came back home, I discovered that the ‘use by’ date had already passed. Can I claim a refund?

A date mark indicates the end of a food product’s shelf life, the period of time that it can be kept under appropriate storage conditions before it starts to deteriorate. Foods should be consumed before the date mark expires to ensuresafety and quality. Even if a product looks and smells fine, using it after this date could put your health at risk and cause food poisoning. ‘Display until’ and ‘sell by’ dates are instructions for shop staff, to tell them when they should take a product off the shelves. The difference between a ‘use by’ date and a ‘best before’ date is that you would find the first one on more perishable items such as cream, yoghurt and some meat products, and it’s an offence under Food Safety legislation for a food business to sell, or have in possession for sale, any food past its use by date. However, ‘best before’ dates are found on foodstuffs which have longer shelf life such as packets of biscuits, tinned food and frozen foods. It is NOT an offence under Food Safety legislation for food to be sold after its best before date, unless its quality has deteriorated to make it unacceptable to eat. As a cream dessert is a perishable item, the retailer should not have sold it to you after the ‘use by’ date. You are entitled to a refund. If you feel that the product poses a health risk you may also wish to contact your local Environmental Health Officer, employed by the HSE to implement national and EU laws on food safety and hygiene.

Food labelling

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