Trade Advice Document
Trading advice from several sources is available to help businesses comply with the law.
The Health and Safety Executive website has advice on:
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute provides advice on a number of topics:
Labelling of honey
In the guide
- General labelling information
- Country or countries of origin
- Durability indication & storage conditions
- Lot marking
- General provisions
- Weight marking
- Organic claims
- Voluntary labelling
This guidance is for England
Prepacked honey is required to be labelled with its name, the name and address of the producer / packer, country of origin, storage conditions, a best-before date, lot mark, and weight marking. The product may only be called 'honey' if it complies with the prescribed compositional standards.
This advice applies to all sales of honey to the ultimate consumer or to a catering establishment.
Honey that is prepacked should be labelled with the following:
- the name
- the name or trade name and address of the producer or responsible food business operator
- the country or countries of origin
- any special storage conditions
- a best-before date
- a lot mark
- the weight
- a nutrition information declaration consisting of the energy value and the amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars and protein
This should be the one that is prescribed by law. The product may only be called 'honey' if it complies with the prescribed compositional standards and has had no other ingredient added to it. The name must consist of or include one of the following descriptions:
- blossom honey
- nectar honey
- honeydew honey
- comb honey
- chunk honey
- cut comb in honey
- drained honey
- extracted honey
- pressed honey
- filtered honey
- baker's honey
In the case of 'blossom honey', 'nectar honey', 'honeydew honey', 'drained honey', 'extracted honey' and 'pressed honey' the name applied may be either the appropriate reserved description or simply 'honey'. Additional clarifying words may be applied to the name - such as 'clear', 'natural', etc - provided they do not mislead.
It is common practice to filter honey under pressure to remove unwanted matter - for example, small pieces of comb or dead bees - and it is acceptable to treat honey in this way without it being required to be labelled 'filtered honey'. However, where fine filters are used such that a significant amount of pollen is removed - for example, where honey is finely filtered to improve the shelf life and clarity - the product must be described as 'filtered honey', and not simply 'honey'.
Where baker's honey and filtered honey are sold in bulk containers, the full product name must appear on both the container and on any accompanying trade documents.
Baker's honey sold in its own right as a food must be labelled with the words 'intended for cooking only' in close proximity to the name. When used as an ingredient in a food, it is permissible to use the abbreviated description 'honey' in the name of the food provided that the full reserved description of 'baker's honey' is listed in the ingredients.
Honey must be labelled with the country or countries in which the honey was harvested. Where the honey is a blend of honeys harvested from more than one country, as an alternative to listing the various countries of origin, one of the following statements may be used, as appropriate:
- 'blend of EU honeys'
- 'blend of non-EU honeys'
- 'blend of EU and non-EU honeys'
Such descriptions can also be tested by analysis.
If there is any reference to a particular plant or blossom (this can be pictures or words), the honey must have come wholly or mainly from that blossom or plant - that is, the honey must be characterised by that blossom or plant.
If reference is made to a regional, territorial or topographical origin the honey must come wholly from that country or place. For example, Mexican honey must come from Mexico and Essex honey must come from within the county of Essex.
Baker's honey and filtered honey may not be labelled with additional information relating to its floral or vegetable origin, its regional or territorial or topographical origin or its specific quality criteria.
A durability indication in the form of a 'best before' date must be applied to most packaged foods. Honey that is intended to have a shelf life in excess of three months is required to be marked with at least a month and a year, such as 'Best before end Oct 2015'. However, in order to be able to identify a particular batch of honey (see below), you may wish to also include the day - for example, 'Best before 30 Oct 2015'.
Storage conditions that need to be observed for the food to maintain its quality until the date shown must also be marked on the label.
Each jar of honey should have a code on it that identifies it with a single batch - for example, this could be all the honey that is packed in one day. You can use a best-before date (if it indicates at least a day and month), a number, or some other code. If you do not use a date, it may be best to put an 'L' in front of the code to make it clear that it is a lot mark. The lot mark can appear anywhere on the jar.
Honey sold only from the premises on which it was packed does not need to be lot-marked. However, it is advisable to lot-mark all jars anyway, so that if there is a problem, the honey can be easily traced back to the batch from which it came.
Any information required to be given must appear either on the packaging, on a label attached to the packaging, or on a label clearly visible through the packaging. The ticket or label must be easy to understand and indelible. Such information must not be hidden, obscured or interrupted by any other written or pictorial matter.
Where honey is sold loose or prepacked for direct sale, the labelling information may appear on a label, ticket or notice that is readily discernible to the intending purchaser.
Where honey is sold other than to the ultimate consumer, the required labelling information may be provided in an accompanying commercial document.
Packed honey must show a metric weight marking, and may show an imperial weight mark in addition to the compulsory metric marking. The metric indication must be more prominent, and for most packs must be at least 4mm high. The imperial marking must be no larger than the metric one. Note that the quantity shown should be the net weight - that is, the weight of the honey without the jar, lid and label.
The weight marking and name of the food should be shown in the same field of vision. There is a minimum font size for the mandatory information.
Individual portions of 25g or less are exempt from compulsory weight declarations.
Please see 'Packaged goods - average quantity' for more information.
If you are marketing your honey as organic, please see 'Labelling & describing organic food', which explains the extra legal controls that apply.
The British Honey Importers and Packers Association (BHIPA) adheres to a voluntary code of practice whereby all honey on retail sale includes a warning statement that honey is 'Unsuitable for children under 12 months'. This is a precautionary measure against possible infant botulism, which could potentially arise from the presence Clostridium botulinum spores in honey. Although this is not a statutory requirement, the trading standards service supports this voluntary warning for infants under twelve months.
Failure to comply may result in an improvement notice being issued, requiring compliance to be achieved. If the improvement notice is not complied with it is an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.
- Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006
- EU Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers
- Food Information Regulations 2014
- Honey (England) Regulations 2015
Last reviewed / updated: December 2016
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.
© 2017 itsa Ltd.
The county council is not responsible for this information.