The new food law which came into effect in 2017, brought about the revision of 27 ordinances. It sets out precise rules on labeling and that, any new food will be authorized in principle, without authorization before marketing.
On average, a Swiss supermarket has 30,000 different food items on its shelves. New products and foods regularly make their appearance there.
Any product that is not prohibited by law can be marketed, as long as it is safe. This approach, provided for in the new food law, which took effect in 2017, is aimed at aligning with European Union (EU) legislation. Not only is the level of consumer protection provided by European legislation one of the highest in the world - the EU is also the main export market for Swiss products.
The limits of the authorization in principle
The main food definitions already established by food legislation remain in force. In order to be marketed as “butter”, “honey”, “milk”, “chocolate” or “olive oil” for example, a product must comply with the specifications already defined.
However, there are several exceptions such as the importing of "novel foods" into Switzerland, that is to say, foods not well-known to consumers because they are not part of Western tradition (for example, a juice made with rare Asian plants). Applications for authorization from the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) must be filed in order to sell these products. The aim of this authorization is to protect consumers against potential allergy or toxicology risks.
Other food products and procedures that require approval include :
- Authorization for health claims
- Authorization for genetically modified organisms
- Authorization of foodstuff businesses
- Authorisation of novel foods
Certain foods do not require specific application to FSVO to be placed on the market, but notification should still be given (Notifications , in German).
Providing more detail about food origins
Unlike the European Union, Switzerland continues to require a certain number of details regarding the country of production and the origin of ingredients (please read the Information on food labeling page on the FSVO website , in German).
For processed products, such as cornflakes or energy bars, it is possible to mention only a geographical area (“EU”, “Oceania”) rather than the country of production.
Producers must indicate the origin of an ingredient when it constitutes nearly 50% of the mixture (milk for yogurt for example) or 20% for meat (such as beef in lasagna). And lastly, if an ingredient confers added value on a product, it is the producer’s responsibility to indicate the origin (for example, the origin of hazelnuts in a chocolate bar).
This approach also applies to meat and fish. The animal’s birthplace (for beef), the place where it has lived for the majority of its life, and the place where it has been fattened will also have to be specified, along with the place of slaughter or catch.
For small production undertakings with fewer than nine employees, self-inspection and traceability have been simplified in the Federal Act on Foodstuffs and Utility Articles. Fewer documents need to be submitted. However, if companies come into contact with fresh food - such as fish in a sushi plant - these simplifications will not apply given the risks.