This article discusses our 5 top tips for accurate multilingual food labelling.

Back in February 2013 the UK was in the middle of the horse meat crisis. I wrote an article about the correct labelling of food, entitled “100% horse meat translated into 26 languages”.

In the article I discussed some of the limiting factors on accuracy of food label translation. A fundamental one being the accuracy of the original text. Food manufacturers and retailers were mis-describing products which contained horsemeat as 100% beef. Translate such a mis-description into 26 languages, and you will be equally none-compliant in each of the 26 target languages!

Here are our 5 top tips for accurate multilingual food labelling:

1) Legal accuracy

Before thinking about translation, ensure the legal accuracy of the source text. If you mis-describe the product in English, then the translations will also mis-describe the product.

2) Do the necessary due diligence

Do all the necessary due diligence in order to ensure your packaging is legally complaint for the target market(s). Commission a compliance report if you need it. Some companies have in-house compliance teams, but others will need external help.

3) Ensure you have the full legally required text

Normally food labels struggle for space on pack. When going multi-lingual the temptation is therefore to cut the text to the absolute minimum. If you fail to include some legally required wording, then the packaging won’t be compliant. Also if you need additional translation after finishing the project, you will be paying extra.

4) Decide the required number of languages

Think carefully about the number of required languages, because the number you choose will impact pack design. As a consumer I like clear packaging, also prominence of my own language, as well as readability. You will compromise all of these should you try to include too many languages.

5) Only use professional translation by food specialists

Only use professional translation, as well as ensuring that your translators are experienced in food label translation. For EU languages this should include a check against EU approved terminology. All food labelling translations should include independent QA.

More information can be found on our food label translation page.