Food labels, instructions for use


Instructions for use on food labels, a mandatory disclosure? Only in some cases, let’s see which ones.


instructions for use

must be stated on the label of prepacked food products-according to EU Regulation 1169/11-only where ‘their omission would make it difficult to use the food properly.’ (1)

Such news is not

vice versa provided

On bulk and pre-wrapped foods, whose mandatory information is specified in Legislative Decree 231/17

. (2)

The intent of the European legislator, it should be noted, is not to require the labeling of the ‘recipe for the best tasting product‘. Indeed, each consumer is free to prepare food as he or she sees fit, according to his or her own unquestionable taste and judgment.

Therefore, any assumption that ‘instructions‘ are compulsory for preparing a risotto or seasoning a pasta dish with a ready-made sauce or tomato paste, for example, should be ruled out. The same cooking times for a pasta, although useful and appreciated, cannot be considered mandatory. Precisely because the consumer can still ‘make appropriate use‘ of the product, to his or her liking.

Instead, the obligation arises when-in the absence of instructions-the user may expose the safety of the food and/or his or her own health to risk. Some examples:

– ‘to be consumed after cooking‘, on raw meat and meat preparations, (3)

– ways of thawing and preparing frozen food to prevent exposure to microbiological hazards,

– useful precautions to prevent contamination or breakage of contact materials, burns, or other accidents (e.g., unsuitability of containers for certain types of ovens).

Instructions are also indispensable on peculiar products as they are partially precooked or intended for ad hoc preparations. Such as cake and pudding mixes, for example, rather than freeze-dried foods, whose dilution-in water or other liquid foods-has relevance both for making the food in accordance with its promises and from a nutritional point of view.

For more on labels and sanctions

, EU Regulation 1169/11 and Legislative Decree 231/17, see our free eBook ‘

1169 penalties

‘, at

Dario Dongo


(1) See reg. EU 1169/11, Art. 9.1.j

(2) Cf. d.lgs. 231/17, Article 19.2

(3) NB: This indication is also relevant for the acceptability of the food from a microbiological point of view, according to reg. EC 2073/05. However, it cannot be used on preparations intended for consumption in the raw state (e.g., carpaccio, tartare), as it would be contrary to the principles of fairness of information (as per EU Reg. 1169/11, Article 7). Without releasing the operator from liability for contamination by pathogenic bacteria

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.