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Food Claims: What does fresh mean in food?

30 June 2017

Making claims about your product can make a big difference to the promotion, marketing and, ultimately, sales of your product. However, it’s vital that the words you don’t mislead the consumer. The Food Standard Agency (FSA) provides comprehensive guidance on the use of various terms. So what does fresh mean in food product development terms?

General best practice for labelling

It’s worth beginning with a reminder of what the FSA says about food product claims.

  • A food product must be able to fulfil claims made for it
  • The wording must be understood by the ‘average’ consumer so it must be easy to grasp
  • Take care when using marketing terms so as to not mislead with creative copy e.g. “Original Chicken Dinosaurs”, where the true name would be “Reformed minced chicken and cereal in breadcrumbs.”
  • Be clear and avoid vague terms that could be misconstrued

What does the term “Fresh” imply?

Fresh conjures up newly baked, picked or cooked foods. It usually means unprocessed and suggests a new-ness, a time when food is at its very best and hasn’t been travelling far or sitting too long on a shelf.

Recommended criteria when using the word fresh

The guidance is to avoid using “fresh” when it has no real meaning – “oven fresh” for example. The regulators want to protect people from misleading labels and confusing claims. The terms “fresh” or “freshly” should only be used where they have a clear meaning, such as fresh fruit salad made only from fresh fruit, or fresh dairy products held under chilled conditions at the point of sale.

In order to apply terms like “freshly cooked”, “freshly prepared” or “freshly baked” to your product, the terms should be literal and be accompanied by proof. So, “freshly prepared this morning” would be acceptable as it refers specifically to when the action took place. I’d recommend using “freshly packed” only if a short period after harvesting or preparation has elapsed before sale. If a food has been vacuum packed to retain its freshness this shouldn’t be described as “freshly packed”.

Guidance in specific cases

For fruit and vegetables

The term “fresh” is now used generically to indicate that fruit and vegetables have not been processed (e.g. canned, pickled, preserved or frozen). This is acceptable as long as it’s not used in such a way as to infer the product has been recently harvested (i.e. “freshly picked”).

Fruit and vegetables that have been washed and/or trimmed can we described as fresh, provided that an indication they have been washed and/or trimmed is evident. Likewise, produce that has undergone delayed ripening and/or extended storage by using chilled temperatures or other controlled atmospheres.

Meat

Fresh can be used to differentiate raw meat from that which has been (chemically) preserved. However, it should not be used to describe previously frozen meat that has been thawed prior to sale.

Fish

Fish kept chilled can be called fresh but fish stored deep frozen, or previously frozen and sold thawed, should not be referred to as fresh. Any smoked, marinated or salted fish should not be identified as fresh.

Fruit juice

The term “fresh” should not be used on juices made from concentrates and “freshly squeezed” should only be used to describe juice extracted from the fruit (not prepared from concentrate) where only a short time has elapsed between extraction and packing. The use-by date on the product should be within two weeks of juice extraction. In the case of “freshly squeezed” fruit juice which has been pasteurised, the treatment should form part of the claim, e.g. “freshly squeezed pasteurised orange juice”.

Fresh bread

When using terms such as “freshly baked”, “baked in store” and “oven fresh” the implication is that the bread is freshly produced on-site from raw ingredients. However, some stores sell bread made from part-baked products (usually packed in an inert atmosphere or frozen off-site) which are then baked in-store. The FSA states that use of such terms in this circumstance could “potentially infringe the general legal provisions”.

Frozen or processed foods or ingredients

The term “fresh” should only be used if its use is made clear from the context. So “frozen from fresh” or “made with fresh ingredients” could be used where no processed ingredients (e.g. freeze-dried, frozen, concentrated, powdered, canned) are used to make your product.

All the legislation currently in place essentially requires the clear labelling, advertising and presentation of products. The FSA’s aim is that consumers aren’t lead to believe that the food they’re buying has characteristics that it doesn’t. If you want to investigate what claims your product can make, or need advice on adapting your recipe to deliver specific terms, contact Froghop for a no-obligation chat.