Frequently asked Questions about labelling

1. What's the difference between “best before” and “use by” dates?

– “Best before” means the date of minimum durability until which a foodstuff retains its specific properties. In general, the food can still be used even after the best before date.

The “use by day” or “use by date”, on the other hand, is, as the name implies, the day on which the product was intended by the manufacturer for use at the latest.

The “use by” date must be indicated on products which, from a microbiologically point of view, are highly perishable and which, even after short storage, may present a health hazard. The best before indication on the other hand, is more related to the quality of the product.

2. Can the store sell and can the consumer eat out-of-date foods?

– The store may sell and the consumer may eat products past their “best before” date. On the other hand, food marked “expiry date” may no longer be sold or eaten after the date indicated.

The “best before” label means the date until which the sensory quality of the food remains good when the product is properly stored. The product is usually still usable after the date. Usability can be established by looking at, smelling and tasting the product.

It is recommended that products sold after the “best before” date be labelled as out of date products.

3. Can foods that have passed the best-before date be used in the manufacture of food, such as in industry or in a restaurant?

- In situations where the best before (BB) date has passed and if the food concerned is to be used in the manufacture of another food, it is recommended that raw materials that have passed the BB date be used as a raw material in industry or restaurants, etc. only in exceptional cases and only if the quality of the food can be shown to be unimpaired and only then after careful consideration. The use of such foods that have passed the BB date should not be a continuous activity. Their use can mislead consumers, weaken the product quality or, in the worst case, pose a health hazard.

The BB dates indicated for products can vary considerably between operators. Each operator indicates the BB date until which the food, when properly stored, retains its specific properties (Food Information Regulation Art. 2.2r and Art. 24). There is no guarantee of product quality by the manufacturer after the BB date. No general time limit can be given for how long a food can be used after the BB date. The durability of products depends on, among other things, the food, packaging, the production process and conditions, and storage. The premise should always be that the products are used and consumed before the BB date. To ensure this, food business operators must have effective ordering practices and an effective stock turnover. 

If, in an exceptional case, a food business operator wishes to use a raw material that has passed the BB date for the manufacture of a food, he must be able to demonstrate to the control authority that the raw material and the final product are of unimpaired quality. The final product must also be shown to last for the entire time limit of consumption of the product. The operator must determine how the quality of the food can be established in all appropriate respects. Depending on the case, organoleptic examinations of food and analysis of nutritional values, for example, may be necessary. In some situations, it may also be necessary to examine the product microbiologically. The operator's expertise and the effectiveness of own-check are paramount in such cases. The operator must take responsibility for ensuring that the consumer is not misled and that other requirements of food law are met. Consumers must be able to rely that only good quality raw materials are used to make food.

4. Why are there no date indications on ice creams?

– Legislation does not require individual ice cream portions (cones, tubs) to have a best before date. Naturally voluntary indications are allowed.

However, combined packages of ice-cream must bear the date indications.

5. Why can't I find the name of the manufacturer/importer on some foods?

– The law requires the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller in Europe to be shown on the packaging of the food. The name of the manufacturer or importer is therefore not mandatory if the packer or a European manufacturer or marketer is indicated on the packaging.

If the company indicated on the packaging is not the food manufacturer, it is recommended that the role of the company be indicated on the packaging, for example “importer” or “packer” or “seller” or “manufacturer making the product for another”.

6. Why do some foods lack information about their country of origin?

– The law generally requires that the country or region of origin of a product be indicated only if its absence is likely to mislead the consumer. The main principle is that the consumer must not be misled into thinking that a product made abroad is Finnish. The country of origin of clearly foreign products does not need to be indicated.

However, indication of the origin of some foods (e.g. vegetables, beef, honey, fishery products) is regulated more specifically.

In addition, the indication of the country of origin of the primary ingredient of a food is provided when the country of origin of a food is indicated (Implementing Regulation (EU) No 2018/775 (in Finnish) became applicable from 1 April 2020).

7. Is it enough for food to be labelled in English?

– It is not enough for mandatory particulars to be provided in English. Foods marketed in Finland must have mandatory labelling in the official languages of the country, i.e. Finnish and Swedish. In monolingual municipalities, the language of that municipality is sufficient.

8. What kind of bread can be called rye bread?

– The Finnish Food Authority, together with the industry, has drawn up a recommendation under which only breads made from cereal raw material where at least half is rye may be called rye bread. The rye content of the bread must be indicated on the front of the package in the same field of vision as the brand name. The recommended indication format is “rye x% of cereal raw material”. In addition, the amount of rye must be indicated as required by law, for example in the list of ingredients, i.e. as a percentage of the total amount of all ingredients used in the final food.

9. How do I know whether a food contains a food allergen?

– The law specifies the most common food allergens that must be included in the list of ingredients on the packaging. These allergens are listed in Annex II to the Food Information Regulation ((EU) No 1169/2011) and on the Finnish Food Authority website(in Finnish).

If you are allergic to substances other than those on the above list, the exact composition of the product may not be indicated on the label, as some substances may only be indicated by a group name, such as maize or potato starch only as starch or spices as a mixture or spice not exceeding 2% by weight, with the exception of celery and mustard. In this case, the most reliable information about the composition of the food can be had by asking the manufacturer or importer of the product directly.

10. Why are fruit sales times not stated?

For whole fresh fruit and vegetables, indicating the date is optional. The date of picking is not always relevant. For example, some apple varieties are ready to be sold and eaten immediately after picking, but others require storage during which they ripen for consumption. Properly processed and stored under the right conditions, fruit and vegetable products remain usable for long periods of time.

Most fruits and vegetables can be examined visually and by feeling to determine if they can still be used.

11. What can be sold under the name of mead (sima) and what is traditional mead (perinteinen sima)?

The name of the food must not be misleading. The use of the Finnish word "sima" (mead) is not regulated by law. However, use of the name "sima" is well established in Finland and  consumers attach certain expectations to it. If a product is, for example, a fruit juice, pear juice, and not mead, the product may not be called mead (sima).

Citrus fruit, brown sugar, sugar and raisins are used to make traditional mead (“perinteinen sima”). If these have not been used and the drink has not been made through fermentation, it may not be named traditional mead (“perinteinen sima”).

The alcoholic strength of the mead shall be indicated on the labelling where its alcoholic strength by volume is more than 1.2%. (Art. 9 of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council).

12. Questions and answers on Regulation (EU) No 1095/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council 1169/2011 (Food Information Regulation)(in Finnish)

13. Questions about general information to be provided on non-prepacked foods (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Decree 834/2014).

14. What is meant by local food?

“Local Food - but of course" describes the Government's Local Food Programme adopted in the Government Resolution of 16 May 2013  and the objectives for developing the local food sector up to 2020.

Under the Resolution, local food means “particularly locally-produced food that promotes the local economy, employment and food culture of the region concerned, has been produced and processed from raw material of that region and is marketed and consumed in that region.

The measures of the Local Food Programme also cover special food products with the most significant markets locally but which are also sold through various channels in other parts of Finland. These products are mainly produced by smaller companies. Local food and local origin and supply of food are especially related, in particular, to short supply chains. Short supply chains are defined by a small number of actors in the chain, close cooperation between actors, growth of the local economy, and geographical and social contacts between producers and consumers”.

More on the subject elsewhere online: Local food is locally produced (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry).

15. What information should be provided on home-made food sold at bazaars?

Labelling under Article 9 of Food Information Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 is not required for prepacked foodstuffs manufactured at home or on a farm and temporarily sold, for example, at bazaars or similar events and where selling is not professional. However, it is important to provide the consumer with sufficient information about the products. This is why the Finnish Food Authority instructs you to indicate food information about the products as follows:

Prepacked foods

  • the name of the food;
  • substances causing allergies and intolerances
  • net quantity
  • date of manufacture

Prepacked foods include, for example, foods sold in jars or bottles, such as mustards, jellies, and mulled drinks. Pastries which are sealed in a bag or wrapped in cellophane or other wrapping in such a way that the contents cannot be removed without opening or breaking the packaging may also be considered as prepacked products.

Non-prepacked foods

  • substances causing allergies and intolerances
  • Examples of non-prepacked foods include foods sold in an open bag and bulk confectionery wrapped in protective paper that are not sold individually. Also for example, pastries on sale in the café of a bazaar are also non-prepacked.
  • For non-prepacked foods, substances which cause allergies and intolerances may also be provided verbally to the consumer. In this case, information about the allergens in the products should be easily available to all sellers.

Substances causing allergies and intolerances

Substances causing allergies and intolerances means the following:

  • Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat, rye, barley, oats and products made from these
  • Crustaceans and products thereof
  • Eggs and products thereof
  • Fish and products thereof
  • Peanuts and products thereof
  • Soybeans and products thereof
  • Milk and products thereof (including lactose)
  • Nuts and products thereof
  • Celery and products thereof
  • Mustard and products thereof
  • Sesame seeds and products thereof
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/litre in terms of the total sulphur dioxide. Concentrations are calculated for products as proposed ready for consumption or as reconstituted according to the instructions of the manufacturers.
  • Lupin and products thereof
  • Molluscs and products thereof

Indicate allergens and intolerances as accurately as possible. For example, instead of the word “nut,” indicate which nut it is, such as “hazelnut”.

List of ingredients

Instead of just allergens and intolerances, you can also indicate the full list of ingredients in the product, e.g. which substances have been used in the preparation of the food.

Recommend accurate information. For example, for spices, it is advisable to indicate which spices have been used in the preparation of the food instead of just the word 'spices'. This enables consumers to choose the products that best suit them.

An example of labelling of food prepacked in a household:

Tiger cake 350 g 

Contains wheat flour, butter, milk, egg, cocoa powder, baking powder and vanilla sugar.

Made on 16/8/2021. 

Please note that these instructions only apply to foods made at home or on a farm and sold temporarily at bazaars or similar events. Where activities are regular, prepacked foods must be labelled in accordance with Article 9 of Food Information Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011. You can find more information here.




Page last updated 1/24/2022