Whilst we haven’t yet received an order to translate 100% horse meat into 26 languages, the current mis-labelling scandal does raise some interesting issues with regard to food label translation. We are often asked by retailers and food manufacturers about the accuracy of our translations. Inevitably, correct labelling of ingredients lists is a vital part of accurate translation. The impact of getting it wrong, could potentially be very costly and damaging.

Food declarations on pack

We only use professional translators, and we check translations rigorously. However, this is only part of the process of getting it right on food packaging. We translate the English text that you supply. This means that if you mis-describe your product in English, the translations will match. In fact if you declare your horse meat as 100% beef, how will we know? We are translating the text, not testing the product. Translate it into 26 languages, and the product will be equally illegal in all!

Imagine that your English packaging states 100% beef. The matching translations will never say 100% horse for the same product. That is if we have translated it! Of course if your speciality is horse burgers, we will happily translate the packaging for you.

Rigorous translation and QA

Part of our QA checks on finished food label artwork, is to comparing the languages against each other. We need to be sure that your artworkers have the correct translation for the correct product. This may sound easy. However, errors are easy when you prepare multi-lingual packaging for a range of very similar products.

It is easy for an artworker who doesn’t speak all the languages, to select the wrong target language text. Imagine  you have three varieties of pizza with the same topping. All with slightly different ingredients and sizes. Say these are a deep pan ham and mushroom, a thin and crispy ham and mushroom, and a family sized ham and mushroom. The translations can be spot on, but there is always risk of human error. The artworker can easily make cut and paste errors adding the wrong translated text for the wrong product.

Consumer tastes and preferences

There is also a serious point about consumer tastes and preferences. In some countries, such as the UK, customers will not be too keen on a product declared as containing horse meat. There are however other markets, where horse is routinely eaten. It is an accepted part of the national diet. This is an important issue of culture which retailers and manufacturers ignore at their peril. The idea that because a food product sells well in the UK, it will therefore sell well in another market, doesn’t always follow. Customs and tastes vary.