Anchovies, do you need to specify 'fish'? The lawyer Dario Dongo answers

Dear Dario good morning,

I submit you the case of a pack of 'anchovies in oil'whose name is shown on the label both in the sales name and in the list of ingredients.

An official in charge of official controls informally warned the operator about the obligation to specify 'fish', after the species name, in the ingredient list.

Otherwise, the risk of a possible corrective action was assumed. Glad to know your opinion about it, thank you as always


The lawyer Dario Dongo, Ph.D. in European food law, answers

Dear Emanuele good morning,

already in the first guidelines on the application of the 'allergens directive' (dir. 2003/89 / EC) the European Commission - in agreement with the Member States, then united in SCOFACH (Standing Committee for the Food Chain and Animal Health) - had clarified that the generic name of the allergen should not be specified when its identity and / or presence is easy to understand, in the specific name of the food, to the average consumer. (1) We insisted a lot on this aspect, representing the Italian and European industry, bringing the examples of yogurt, butter, cream (as well as soluble barley, flaked cereals, etc.).

EU Reg. 1169/11, hypothesis of omission of the allergen name if evident in the name of the food

The reg. EU 1169/11, cd Food Information Regulation, takes up the concept set out above in Article 21 (Labeling of some substances or products that cause allergies or intolerances).

'In cases where the name of the food clearly refers to the substance or to the product in question, the directions referred to in Article 9, paragraph 1, letter c) [highlighting of the allergens referred to in Annex II to reg. UE 1169/11, ed] they are not required'. (2)

Name of the food and obligation to specify the generic name of the allergen

The only hypothesis in which it is mandatory to specify the nature of the product is that in which its denomination (be it legal or usual) is not immediately understood by consumers on the market where the food is marketed.

It is the case, for example, of a raschera marketed in a Region other than Piedmont. The usual name of this cheese is in fact little known outside of Piedmont, although consumers could guess its nature, due to its appearance and location near other cheeses in the supermarket refrigerated counter.

In the example cited, it is necessary to insert a descriptive name on the label which at the same time fulfills the obligation of specific information on the presence of the allergen, which is implicit in the word 'cheese' (without the need to specify 'milk', pursuant to EU regulation 1169 / 11, article 21.1).

'Anchovies' o 'anchovies (fish)'?

In the case of fish products, the specification 'fish' may be appropriate in the case of processed foods that contain neglected fish, that is, underutilized, uncommon species. What could be a food ready-to-eat based on blue whiting or brown pout.

The anchovies or anchovies, sardines, tuna and mackerel, octopus and baby octopus, cuttlefish and squid are very popular fish species. There is therefore no risk that any average consumer could confuse the actual nature of the product. Nor, consequently, the obligation to specify that they are fish.

Fish sounding? Risk excluded

The risk of fish sounding it is, moreover, excluded, since the fishing CMO (EU reg. 1379/13) and its implementing regulation (EU reg. 1420/13) offer specific rules for the various commercial names. The protection of authentic fish with respect to its imitations of different nature is therefore protected in the same way as milk and its derivatives, in that case with respect to the risk of milk o Cheese Sounding. (3)

Best wishes and see you soon


(1) See Communication from the Commission 13.7.17, concerning the provision of information on substances or products causing allergies or intolerances listed in Annex II of Regulation (EU) no. 1169/2011

(2) EU Reg. 1169/11, article 21.1, last paragraph. On the name of the food, see previous article

(3) ECJ, judgment 14.6.17. V.

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