Food labels in different languages, replies lawyer Dario Dongo

Dear Dario,

As part of official checks at some ethnic shops, our health services identified some products with food labels in languages ​​other than Italian. I therefore ask you to confirm the measures and sanctions to be applied in these cases.

Many thanks


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

Dear Enrico,

il Food Information Regulation (EU) No 1169/11 requires that the mandatory information on the label be provided in one or more languages, applying the following criteria.

1) Food label languages

The mandatory information required on food labels pursuant to Reg. (EU) 1169/11, articles 9 and 10 (where reference is made to other general and sector regulations, applicable to individual foods and/or their categories), must be reported:

– in the official language or languages ​​established in the Member State where the foods are marketed, or

- 'in a language easily understandable by consumers of the Member States in which the food is marketed', if they have not required that 'such particulars be provided in one or more official languages ​​of the Union'

– without prejudice in any case to the possibility of providing information in multiple languages ​​(EU Reg. 1169/11, article 15).

2) Language requirements on labels, B2B information, distance and online sales

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), as we have seen, (1) reiterated zero tolerance on the linguistic requirements indicated above. Which apply, as we have seen:

– information aimed at communities (i.e. public establishments and restaurants, canteens, catering), which are equated to final consumers (EU Reg. 1169/11, art. 2.2.e); (2)

– sold online and remotely, where 'all mandatory information' they must be 'available before the conclusion of the purchase, on the support of distance selling' as well as 'at the time of delivery' (EU Reg. 1169/11, article 14. See notes 3,4).

3) Seizure and prescription

Official Controls Regulation (EU) No 2017/625 gives the authorities responsible for official controls on the food supply chain, in the event of a finding of non-compliance, the power to adoptappropriate measures to ensure that the operator concerned remedies cases of non-compliance and prevents their recurrence'.

The health authorities so:

- 'provide for the modification of labels or corrective information to be provided to consumers';

- 'restrict or prohibit the placing on the market, movement, entry into the Union or export of animals and goods and prohibit or order their return to the Member State of dispatch' (5,6).

4) Sanctions

Food labels which do not contain the mandatory information in the official language or languages ​​established in the Member State where the products are marketed (or in any case in languages ​​easily understood by consumers in the country itself) are subject to the administrative sanctions established therein.

Such a shortage constitutes a violation of the prohibition on misleadingas regards the characteristics of the food and, in particular, the nature, identity, properties, composition, quantity, shelf life, country of origin or place of provenance, manufacturing method or of production' (EU Reg. 1169/11, article 7.1.a. Fair information practices).




(1) CJEU, ruling 13.1.22, case C-881/19 (Tesco Stores ČR asv Ministerstvo zemědělství). See the previous article by Dario Dongo. EU Court of Justice, zero tolerance on language requirements in food labels. 23.1.22

(2) B2B information, which language to use? The lawyer Dario Dongo answers. FARE (Food and Agriculture Requirements). 15.10.22

(3) Online sales of food, labeling and language. The lawyer Dario Dongo answers. FARE (Food and Agriculture Requirements). 25.3.22

(4) Dario Dongo. Ecommerce, mandatory information on the label in the language of the country of destination. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 22.6.21

(5) EU Reg. 2017/625, article 138. Actions in case of proven non-compliance

(6) Dario Dongo. Controls, the role of the health administration. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 30.10.17

(7) In Italy, Legislative Decree 231/17 provides for the application of an administrative fine ranging from €3.000 to €24.000 for this purpose, subject to the application of criminal law (in the event, for example, of fraud on the market)

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