Labels on products and goods tell you about the characteristics of the product or item. Accurate product labelling is important as it:
- Educates you about products you buy
- Helps you make informed choices (choices that are based on facts)
- Helps 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 meet product labelling requirements. Certain pieces of information are often on product labels but are not required by law. These are added by the manufacturer or retailer voluntarily. 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. In 2014, new EU rules on the provision of information to consumers became law in Europe replacing older rules. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has more information about food information labelling.
While these rules apply to all types of food products, certain types of foodstuffs have extra rules for labelling. These include:
Fish - 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.
Organic - Rules on use of the word ‘organic’ on a food label are in Council Regulation EC No. 834/2007. Only producers who comply with these rules can use the EU organic logo. 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.
Fairtrade - 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.
Find out more about food safety.
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). For more information visit askaboutalchohol.ie. Alcohol drinks containing more than 1.2% alcohol are exempt from the rules to list ingredients and nutrition.
In 2019, the Brewers of Europe and its members signed a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) committing them to labelling ingredients and energy values on all beer bottles and cans in the EU by 2022.
Rules covering other product labelling
A summary of the rules on labelling of various other products sold in Ireland and the EU is provided below.
The CE mark on a product is a manufacturer’s assurance 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 a wide range of products including toys, electrical products, and gas appliances. The European Commission has more information about the CE marking. You can read more in our document on product safety.
The labels on textile products sold in the EU must show information on:
- The material composition of the textile product (also 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 (and is not required by law).
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is responsible for enforcing 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 item of footwear per pair and it can also be on the packaging.
Footwear labels must provide information in a clear and accurate way. The manufacturer or importer in the EU is responsible for supplying the labels and for the 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 is responsible for enforcing the rules on footwear labelling.
Labels on cosmetic products must show certain information including:
- The ingredients
- Precautions that should be taken when 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, or a 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 pictograms and signal 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.
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:
|Label type||Responsible body|
|Food product labelling||Food Safety Authority of Ireland|
|Textile labelling and general safety or consumer rights concerns||Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC)|
|CE marking||National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI)|
|Cosmetics labelling||Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA)|
|Hazards labelling||Health and Safety Authority (HSA)|