Ingredient list, ABC


The ingredient list is mandatory and essential information, on food products for sale as well as those administered by communities. Next, the ABCs of rules.

Ingredient list at food labels, logs, and menus

EU Regulation 1169/11 – the so-called Food Information Regulation – requires ingredient listing in relation to almost all food products. (1) On labels, or on signs or registers near foods sold in bulk, or even on menus in public establishments. (2)

‘The list of ingredients bears a heading or is preceded by an appropriate indication consisting of or including the word “ingredients.” The list shall include all ingredients of the food, in descending order by weight, as recorded at the time of their use in the manufacture of the food’ (EU reg. 1169/11, Article 18).

The designation of ingredients

Follows the prescribed rules on food designation

, as well as the specific rules contained in Annexes VI and VII to EU Regulation 1169/11. (3)

Compound ingredients

– those, that is, which in turn contain more than one ingredient (e.g., breadcrumbs, margarine, chocolate) may be referred to by their name, which must always be immediately followed by the list of its components

. (4)

Allergenic ingredients, specific indication and graphic evidence

Ingredients that may cause food allergies and intolerances-mentioned in the exhaustive list in Annex II of EU Regulation 1169/11-must always be referred to by their specific name (e.g., ‘ wheatflour,’ or ‘wheat gluten,’ rather than ‘00 flour‘ or ‘gluten‘). Without the possibility of resorting to category names (therefore, one must write ‘nuts, almonds‘ instead of ‘nuts,’ ‘wheat, rye‘ instead of ‘cereals containing gluten.

The keyword of each allergen

must then be highlighted graphically

, in bold or capital letters, or by underlining. So that allergic consumers can identify at a glance the compatibility of each product with their diet.

Where the operator

– as a result of proper application of self-control (good hygienic practices, Haccp

) – is unable to exclude accidental contamination of the food with allergenic ingredients not voluntarily placed in his recipe, he must indicate ‘

May contain

(name of the allergen)‘. In the margin of the ingredient list, and without referring to ‘

traces of

, as such wording, lacking legal references and meaning for allergic consumers, is intended to be prohibited. (5)

Food additives, enzymes and processing aids


food additives

and the food enzymes must be referred to by their specific name (e.g., ascorbic acid)-or, alternatively, by the European authorization code (e.g., E300) – preceded by its functional category (e.g., preservative).

The indication of enzymes and food additives (as well as their carriers) may, however, be omitted when they do not perform a technological function in the finished product. And their presence-albeit in residual, or modified form-is due exclusively:

  • To the content of one or more ingredients used in the preparation of the food, (6) or
  • To their use as processing aids. That is, as process auxiliaries that exhaust their function in the process of processing.

Water ingredient

Water is for all intents and purposes an ingredient in many food products. And yet it is distinguished by two peculiarities.

First of all, in determining the placement of water in the list-which, as noted above, must adhere to a descending order (by weight or volume, depending on whether food or beverages are involved)-the amount of water fed into the process should not be considered.

‘The amount of water added as an ingredient in a food shall be determined by subtracting the total amount of the other ingredients used from the total amount of the finished product.’ (EU reg. 1169/11, Annex VII, Part A, point 1)

Second, water may be omitted from the list ‘If, by weight, it does not exceed 5% of the finished product. This exemption does not apply to meat, meat preparations, unprocessed fishery products and unprocessed bivalve molluscs.‘ (7)

Water added in excess of 5% (always, regardless of the amount, on the above products) must therefore be indicated in the ingredient list. Unless it was ‘used in the course of the manufacturing process, only to enable the reconstitution of an ingredient used in concentrated or dehydrated form; or in the case of a covering liquid that is not normally consumed.’ (8)

When the added water exceeds 5%. Of the weight of the finished product, on the ‘Meat products and preparations in the form of cuts (including for roasting), slices, portions of meat or carcasses‘ – as well as on the ‘Fishery products and to prepared fishery products whole or in the form of cuts (including for roasting), slices, portions and fillets‘ – the wording ‘with added water‘, followed by its percentage, must finally accompany the food name. (9)

Dario Dongo


(1) Except for fresh fruit and vegetables that have not been peeled or cut, carbonated waters described as such, and fermentation vinegars derived exclusively from a single commodity, without the addition of other ingredients (such as balsamic vinegar). Also excluded are cheeses, butter, fermented milk and cream, as long as no ingredients other than dairy products, enzymes and microorganisms, and salt have been added. As well as single-ingredient foods, provided their name is identical to the ingredient name (e.g., honey), or otherwise ‘allows the nature of the ingredient to be clearly determined (e.g., oatmeal). Cf. reg. (EU) no. 1169/11, art. 19

(2) Collectivities-which include bars, pastry and ice cream parlors, restaurants, trattorias and diners, pizzerias, take-aways, canteens (hospital, school, business) and caterers-follow the rules prescribed in Italy by the d.lgs. 231/17. See thearticle on the subject

(3) See reg. EU 1169/11, Annex VI(Food name and accompanying specific indications), notable among others for the requirements for minced meat, and Annex VII(Indication and designation of ingredients)

(4) The specification of compound ingredients is not required only in cases of mixtures of herbs and spices as well as foods whose composition is subject to specific regulation at the EU level (e.g., “The specification of compound ingredients is not required in the case of herbs and spices. cocoa products), when they account for less than 2 percent of the finished product. As well as in cases of foods exempted in the EU from the requirement to indicate composition (e.g. alcoholic beverages, >1.2% vol. alcohol). Cf. Reg. EU 1169/11, Annex VII, Part E. It is in any case without prejudice to the duty to indicate allergenic ingredients

(5) See European Commission Guidelines.

(6) In accordance with the principle of transfer, or of the carry-over, referred to in reg. EC 1333/08, Article 18.1 (a) and (b). In this regard, see previous article

(7) See reg. (EU) no. 1169/11, Annex VII, Part A, point 1

(8) Reg. EU 1169/11, Art. 20.e

(9) We should therefore read ‘
Cooked ham with added water
‘, in some poor quality products. In order to verify the recurrence of this obligation, moreover, control authorities will have to carry out inspections at production facilities and calculate the difference between the weight of the finished product and the weight of the ingredients used. Conversely, the challenge cannot be based on the mere clue represented by the moisture content of the finished product. Cf. reg. EU 1169/11, Annex VI, Part A, point 6