The German Food Labelling Market: we don’t want your product to be recalled!

BBL Translation, Food labelling

Entering the German food market presents unique opportunities and challenges, especially when it comes to food labelling. As a specialised translation agency, we understand that translating food labels goes beyond mere language conversion. It involves adhering to stringent regulations, recognising cultural nuances, and meeting consumer expectations. For companies aiming to break into the German market, it’s crucial to ensure that your food labels are not only translated accurately but also comply with all relevant regulations. Here’s an overview of the key steps and considerations for translating food labels from English to German.

The Regulatory Framework

Navigating the German market requires compliance with several critical regulations, including:

1. EU Regulation No. 1169/2011 (FIC 1169/2011): This comprehensive regulation covers the provision of food information to consumers, ensuring that labels are clear and informative. It includes requirements for ingredient lists, nutritional information, allergen declarations, and label legibility.

2. EU Implementing Regulation No. 2018/775: Related to Article 26(3) of FIC 1169/2011, this regulation details the rules for indicating the country of origin or place of provenance of a food product’s primary ingredient. Compliance ensures transparency and consumer trust.

3. Lebensmittel- und Futtermittelgesetzbuch (LFGB): The German Food and Feed Code governs food safety, labelling, and consumer protection. It includes specific requirements for food labelling that must be adhered to by companies entering the market.

4. Lebensmittelinformations-Durchführungsverordnung (LMIDV): This regulation is Germany’s implementation of the EU Food Information Regulation (FIC 1169/2011), providing detailed rules on the presentation and content of food labels in Germany.

Key Considerations for Accurate Translation

1. Compliance with Regulations: Each food label must meet the standards set by the aforementioned regulations. This involves not only translating text but also ensuring the correct presentation and structure of information. Key aspects like allergen information must be clearly highlighted, and the origin of ingredients must be specified where required.

2. Cultural awareness: German consumers have distinct preferences and expectations regarding food labels. Organic and locally sourced products are particularly valued. Translating labels accurately means considering these cultural factors to make the information appealing and relevant to German consumers.

3. Precision in Terminology: Food terminology can differ greatly between English and German. Accurate translation of ingredients, nutritional values, and dietary claims is vital to avoid misunderstandings or regulatory issues. Inaccurate translations can lead to consumer mistrust and potential fines.

4. Design and Legibility: The visual presentation of food labels is as important as the textual content. German regulations specify requirements for font sizes, contrasts, and overall legibility. Ensuring that translated text fits within the label design while remaining compliant is essential.

A case study of a food labelling error in the German market

Entering the German food market presents numerous opportunities, but it also comes with stringent regulations and high consumer expectations. Even minor errors in food labelling can lead to significant commercial repercussions, including product recalls and damage to a brand’s reputation. In this post, we explore a real-world example of a food labelling error in the German market, highlighting the importance of accurate and compliant translation.

The incident: a labelling error leads to a recall

In 2022, a well-known international food company faced a major setback when one of its products was recalled from the German market due to a labelling error. The product in question was a ready-to-eat soup, popular among health-conscious consumers. The error involved the incorrect declaration of allergen information on the label, specifically the omission of a common allergen: celery.

Regulatory background

Germany, like other EU countries, follows strict guidelines for food labelling under the EU regulation no. 1169/2011 (FIC 1169/2011). This regulation mandates clear and comprehensive information on food labels, including the accurate listing of allergens. In this case, the failure to correctly declare the presence of celery was a direct violation of these regulations.

The consequences

The repercussions of this labelling error were immediate and severe:

  1. Product recall: The company had to issue an immediate recall of the product from all retail outlets in Germany. This process involved removing thousands of units from shelves, which was both logistically challenging and costly.
  2. Financial loss: The recall resulted in significant financial losses, not only due to the cost of retrieving and destroying the affected products but also in terms of lost sales and damage control expenses.
  3. Brand damage: The incident damaged the brand’s reputation, particularly among health-conscious consumers who rely on accurate labelling to make safe food choices. Rebuilding consumer trust after such an incident can be a long and challenging process.
  4. Regulatory penalties: The company faced potential fines and increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies, further adding to the financial and reputational costs.

Lessons learned

This incident underscores the critical importance of accurate and compliant food labelling. Here are some key takeaways for companies entering the German market:

  1. Thorough regulatory knowledge: It is imperative to have a deep understanding of both EU-wide and country-specific regulations governing food labelling. This includes staying updated with any changes in legislation.
  2. Expert translation services: Partnering with a specialized translation agency that understands the regulatory landscape is crucial. Accurate translation of food labels ensures compliance and prevents costly errors.
  3. Rigorous quality assurance: Implementing a robust quality assurance process that includes multiple checks and reviews can help catch potential errors before products go to market. This process should involve regulatory experts and native speakers who are well-versed in local consumer expectations.
  4. Clear allergen declaration: Allergens must be clearly highlighted on food labels. Using bold or contrasting fonts and ensuring visibility are key practices to follow, as mandated by regulations.
  5. Consumer feedback mechanism: Establishing a system for consumer feedback can help identify labelling issues early. Prompt action on consumer complaints can prevent small issues from escalating into major problems.


Accurate and compliant food labelling is not just a regulatory requirement but a fundamental aspect of consumer safety and brand integrity. The case of the recalled soup product in Germany highlights the severe consequences of labelling errors and underscores the need for meticulous attention to detail in the translation and presentation of food labels.

At BBLTranslation, we specialise in providing precise and compliant translation services for food labels. By leveraging our expertise, you can ensure your products meet regulatory standards and build trust with German consumers. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your business in the German market.

Photo by Laura James

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