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Summaries of EU Legislation

Nutrition labelling (until 2014)

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Nutrition labelling (until 2014)

Nutrition labelling is harmonised throughout the European Union. It is optional, but becomes compulsory if a nutrition claim appears on the label or in advertising.


Council Directive 90/496/EEC of 24 September 1990 on nutrition labelling rules of foodstuffs [See amending act(s)].


This Directive concerns nutrition labelling * of foodstuffs for the final consumer and for mass caterers (restaurants, hospitals, canteens, etc.).

The Directive does not apply to natural mineral waters or other waters intended for human consumption, or food supplements.

Nutrition labelling is optional, but becomes compulsory if a nutrition claim is made on the label, in a presentation or in advertising.

Only nutrition claims are allowed which relate to the energy value, the nutrients referred to in the Annex to the Directive (proteins, carbohydrates, fat, dietary fibres, sodium, vitamins and minerals) or to substances which belong to one of the categories of these nutrients or which are components of them.

The information in nutrition labelling comes under group 1 or group 2, as indicated below:

  • Group 1:
  • Group 2:

Where the nutrition claim refers to sugars, saturated fatty acids, dietary fibres or sodium, group 2 information must be provided.

The declared energy value and amount of nutrients must be given in figures using specific units of measurement. The information must be expressed per 100g or per 100ml. They can also be expressed per package or per portion. Information on vitamins and minerals must, in addition, be expressed as a percentage of the recommended daily allowance (RDA), which may also be given in graphic form.

Nutrition labelling may also include the quantities of amidone, polyols, monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, cholesterol and the mineral salts and vitamins specified in the Annex to the Directive.

All of the above information must be grouped together in a clearly visible place and must be in legible, indelible characters and in a language easily understood by the purchaser. Member States may not introduce nutrition labelling specifications that are more detailed than those contained in this Directive.

With regard to foodstuffs which are not pre-packaged when sold to the final consumer and mass caterers and foodstuffs which are packaged at the places of immediate sale, the scope of the information in food labelling and the manner in which it is provided may be laid down in national provisions until Community measures are possibly adopted in accordance with the procedure provided for in this Directive.


The Commission is assisted by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.


This Directive is replaced from 13 December 2014 by Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers. The Regulation combines this current Directive and Directive 2000/13/EC relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs.

New requirements aimed at improving the level of information and protection for European consumers provide the obligation to include a nutritional declaration on the labelling of foodstuffs. The nutritional declaration must mention the following:

  • the energy value;
  • the quantity of certain nutrients in the composition, fat, saturates, carbohydrates, as well as a specific mention for sugar and salt.

Key terms

  • Nutrition labelling: any information appearing on labelling and relating to the energy value or the following nutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, fat, dietary fibres, sodium, vitamins and minerals.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 90/496/EEC



OJ L 276 of 6.10.1990

Amending Act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2003/120/EC



OJ L 333 of 20.12.2003

Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003



OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003

Directive 2008/100/EC



OJ L 285 of 29.10.2008

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008



OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 90/496/EEC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purpose only.

Last updated: 02.02.2012