The food imitation and the law - What is it and how does it affect your craft business?

What is food imitation?

There are three UK and EU laws that cover the production and sale of “imitation foods”.

Food Imitations (Safety) Regulations 1989

The food imitations (Safety) regulations 1989 was brought into force on the 1st of January 1990 and prohibits the sale of items that “have a form, odour, colour, appearance, packaging, labelling, volume or size which is likely to cause persons, in particular, children to confuse them with food” 1989 No. 1291

Examples of items that have been banned as a result of lack of compliance….

“Latte glass” and “cake” candle in the shape of foods.



Styrofoam decoration in the shape of a lollypop.



EU Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures

This law controls the visual element of packaging for things like chemicals, detergents and drain cleaning liquids. Fundamentally it says that no packaging for the above products can be produced in a way that is visually appealing to children or that can be mistaken for a food product.

Here there are 2 products that packaging too closely resembles that of a food product.


Shampoo or milkshake?

 Moth balls or mints?

EU Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 on cosmetic products (enforced by trading standards in the UK by the Cosmetic Product Enforcement Regulations 2013)

This law states that cosmetics must be safe for human health when used in a “normal or reasonable foreseeable conditions of use.”  

Several “skin lightening” creams were banned due to dangerously high levels of mercury found within them. So they were skin products, that weren't safe for use on skin.....

Who does it apply to?

These pieces of legislation apply to anyone selling the sort of products that could be mistaken for imitation foods. This includes; Candle makers, jewellery producers and cosmetics manufacturers.

It also includes all those who may supply those trades. If you are a wax supplier and you supply materials knowing that they are going to be made into food imitation products, you are equally liable. It even includes stores that purchase items wholesale to sell on.

What isn’t included in the legislation?

There are a few items that are not included in the above legislation.

These include;

  • “marbles,
  • products intended for use to represent food in a dolls' house or other model scene or setting;
  • or anything consisting entirely of articles or substances used as ingredients in the preparation of food.“ (So it guess that’s “food”)


Lack of compliance with any of the above legislation can result in a maximum of a 12-month prison sentence.

What must I do to be compliant?

It’s simple. If your product isn’t food, Don’t make it look like food.

If you think that your non food may be mistaken for food then it's probably best to pop a "classification, Labelling and Packaging" (CLP) sticker on it.

These stickers must contain the following elements;

  • "Name and address and telephone number of the supplier(s),
  • The nominal quantity of the substance or mixture in the package where this is being made available to the general public, unless this quantity is specified elsewhere on the package,
  • Product identifiers,
  • Hazard pictograms, where applicable,
  • The relevant signal word, where applicable,
  • Hazard statements, where applicable,
  • Appropriate precautionary statements, where applicable,
  • A section for supplemental information, where applicable."

The Lush scenario

A couple of people have asked about why lush gets away with making foods that look like cakes, desserts etc, they literally look good enough to eat. It’s true when the FI(S)R came into force, Lush cosmetics were extremely opposed to it. The reason for they have continued successfully producing “food imitation” products is that Lush is a “cosmetics” company. As such the argument is that when you go into one of there store you should expect to buy only cosmetics.

They have also gone a long way to ensuring that none of there products contain anything harmful should they be accidentally be ingested.

If you go onto the Lush website then you can see a list of ingredients for each product. Clicking on the ingredient will take you to a helpful information page.

Lush products don’t necessarily taste good, but they won’t kill you either.

Where can I go to find more information?

More information can be found by following the links below.

I am not an expert in this field and this article is merely to advise and inform. More information can easily be obtained by getting in touch with your local trading standards office.

You can find your local office by clicking this link;

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