Labels on products tell you about the characteristics of the product.
Accurate product labelling is important to:
- Educate you about products you buy
- Help you make choices based on facts
- Help you to use products safely
Product labelling rules are set out in Irish and EU law so that the information you get on packaging is accurate, not misleading and safe.
These rules are known as mandatory information requirements (what must be on the label). There are mandatory information requirements for food, textiles, and footwear. There are other areas that are also covered – see ‘Other product labelling’ below.
Manufacturers of products must follow product labelling rules. Some information on product labels is not required by law but the manufacturer or retailer voluntarily adds this. For example, instructions on how to cook or serve food is not required but most food labels carry this information.
Rules covering food labelling
Food labels give you information such as the nutritional value, weight, ingredients, country of origin, use by date, and allergen warnings. There are EU wide rules covering food information that must be on food labels.
While these rules apply to all types of food products, other types of food have extra rules for labelling.
Labels for fish and aquaculture (farmed fish) products must include information on:
- The commercial and scientific name of the species
- If it was caught at sea or in freshwater
- If it was defrosted
The European Commission has more information for consumers on the rules that apply to fishery products.
Products must be certified as organic by an authorised inspection and certification body in each Member State. In Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine has approved a number of organic inspection bodies.
The Department has more information about organic labelling.
A Fairtrade Mark means a product was produced according to internationally agreed standards and this is independently certified by FLOCERT. Fairtrade products are socially and economically fair and environmentally responsible. Fairtrade Ireland has more information about the Fairtrade Mark.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has more information about food information labelling.
Rules covering alcohol labelling
Alcohol strength must be shown if a drink contains more than 1.2% alcohol. This is usually shown on labels as alcohol by volume (%ABV). Alcohol drinks containing more than 1.2% alcohol don't have to meet the rules about listing ingredients and nutrition.
Changes to rules on alcohol labelling
The Public Health (Alcohol) (Labelling) Regulations 2023 was signed into law on 26 May 2023.
Alcohol labels will:
- State the calorie content and grams of alcohol in the product
- Warn about the risk of consuming alcohol when pregnant
- Warn of the risk of liver disease and fatal cancers from alcohol consumption
The law will apply from 22 May 2026, to give businesses time to prepare for the change.
For more information visit askaboutalchohol.ie.
Rules covering other product labelling
There are other rules on labelling for various other products sold in Ireland and the EU.
The CE mark on a product is a manufacturer’s guarantee that the product meets all EU Directives and health, safety and environmental protection standards that apply to that product. The CE Marking also applies to products made outside the EU but sold on the EU market.
It is a white rectangular label with the letters ‘CE’ in black lettering. It is required on products including toys, electrical products, and gas appliances. The European Commission has more information about the CE marking. You can read more about product safety.
The labels on textile products sold in the EU must show information on:
- The material composition of the textile product (known as the fibre content)
- Fibre names and descriptions
- The percentages of the materials contained in the item (for example, clothing may be labelled ‘100% cotton’ or ‘50% wool, 50% acrylic’.)
The rules apply to products that are made entirely of textile fibres such as clothes, curtains or bed linen. It also applies to products containing at least 80% textile components such as furniture, gloves, umbrella and sunshade coverings.
The rules on textile labelling are set out in S.I. 142 of 2012.
Putting care instructions on textile labels is recommended by an industry code of practice but is not required by law.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) enforces the rules on textile labelling and has more information about textile labelling regulations.
The law states that footwear must have a label with the following information:
- The main materials (that make up at least 80%) used for the upper, lining and sock, and outer sole
- If no one material accounts for at least 80% of the footwear, the label must state the two main materials that it is made of (for example, ‘20% rubber, 60% leather)
The label should be attached to at least one of the pair of shoes and it can also be on the packaging.
Information on footwear labels be clear and accurate. The manufacturer or importer in the EU must supply the labels and information on labels. The retailer must make sure footwear they sell is labelled correctly.
The rules on labelling on footwear sold in the EU are set out in S.I. 63 of 1996.
The CCPC enforces the rules on footwear labelling.
Labels on cosmetic products must show certain information including:
- The ingredients
- Safety measures for using the product
- Minimum date the product will remain safe to use
The rules on labelling of cosmetics sold in the EU are set out in S.I. No. 440 of 2013.
If a product, substance or mixture in the product or packaging, could cause a potential danger, then a hazard warning must be included on the labelling.
Information on hazards can be by hazard symbol or words (for example, ‘Warning’ or ‘Danger’).
The rules on hazard labelling are set out in the CPL Regulation 1272/2008/EC and they aim to protect workers, consumers, and the environment.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has more information on hazard labels and an example of a hazard label.
Who enforces product labelling rules?
Several organisations monitor and enforce the rules on product labelling.
You can complain to the following bodies if you believe a product does not meet labelling rules:
|Who is responsible
|Food product labelling
|Food Safety Authority of Ireland
|Textile labelling and general safety or consumer rights concerns
|Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC)
|National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI)
|Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA)
|Health and Safety Authority (HSA)