News and Views
Upcoming Food Allergen and Labelling Requirements
On 13 December 2014, a section of the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation regarding food allergens in non-pre-packed and pre-packed foods will come into effect.
The regulations designate new allergen information and disclosure requirements for restaurants, in addition to new labelling requirements on pre-packed foods.
The EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (No. 1169/2011) came into force on 13 December 2011. This harmonises food labelling requirements across all member states of the EU, including all four countries of the United Kingdom. Each country in the United Kingdom has drafted applicable Food Information Regulations to implement the new requirements.
On 13 December 2014, a section of the regulations regarding food allergens in non-pre-packed and pre-packed foods will come into effect for all food business operators (FBOs). ‘Pre-packed food’ means food placed into packaging before being offered for sale that cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging. However, this does not cover foods pre-packed for direct sales (such as deli food) or food packed at the customer’s request.
The new requirements include:
- Allergen information and disclosure requirements for FBOs serving non-pre-packed foods, such as restaurants, chippies, takeaways, caterers, bakeries, etc.
- New labelling requirements on pre-packed foods to emphasise certain listed allergens.
The following provides an overview of the upcoming changes regarding allergens and hints and tips on how to comply with the new requirements.
Why Changes Were Made
In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that 2 million people or 1-2 per cent of adults and 5-8 per cent of children have a food allergy. These figures do not include those with food intolerances, so the total number of people with food allergies and sensitivities is likely much greater.
An allergic reaction can be produced by a seemingly inconsequential amount of food, for instance, a teaspoon of milk powder, a fragment of peanut or a single sesame seed. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild, such as itching and rashes, to severe, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, wheezing, anaphylaxis (shock) or even death. Approximately ten people in the United Kingdom die from allergic reactions to food every year.
There is no cure for a food allergy. The only way to manage it is to avoid foods that cause an allergic reaction. Therefore, it is very important that FBOs provide clear and accurate information about allergen ingredients in their products.
14 Listed Allergens
Depending on the type of food (non-pre-packed or pre-packed), FBOs must either properly label or disclose the presence of 14 major allergens:
List of 14 Allergens
|Cereals containing gluten (namely wheat such as spelt, Khorasan wheat/Kamut), rye, barley, oats or their hybridised strains|
|Crustaceans (such as crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp and prawn)|
|Tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, brazils, pistachios, macadamia nuts or Queensland nuts)|
|Celery and celeriac|
|Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at a concentration of more than ten parts per million)|
|Molluscs (such as mussels, oysters and squid)|
From 13 December 2014, FBOs that provide non-pre-packed foods, such as restaurants and takeaways, must provide information to customers on certain allergenic ingredients. It will no longer suffice for these FBOs to simply say that their foods may contain allergens or that they do not know if their food contains any. Allergen information must be complete, accurate and available for each specific food. This can be done by:
- Supplying the allergen information on menus, chalk boards or tickets;
- Having an appropriate staff member verbally disclose the information; or
- Using other formats made available to the consumer.
If the allergen information is written, it should be clear and conspicuous, easily visible and legible. If the allergen information is verbally disclosed, it is still necessary to use an easily seen, written notice that states that the information can be obtained by asking a staff member.
While FBOs that supply pre-packed foods already must follow certain labelling requirements, from 13 December 2014, they now also have to emphasise on the label whether the food contains certain allergens. This means using a contrasting font size, style or colour to emphasise the 14 listed allergens from other ingredients.
Additionally, FBOs selling pre-packed foods must:
- Make sure the allergenic information is easily visible, clearly legible and not obscured in any way ( such as under a flap or in a crease)
- Ensure a font size of 1.2mm or more where the labelling surface is 80cm2 or more, or ensure a font size of 0.9mm or more if the labelling surface is less than 80cm2 or less (can omit ingredients list if largest surface area is 10cm2 or less and information is available at consumer’s request).
However, pre-packed products that have been labelled or placed on the market before 13 December 2014 can still be sold until stocks are exhausted. This is due to the typically long shelf lives of pre-packed foods, such as frozen, tinned or dried foods.
Make sure that your business is prepared for these upcoming changes as it will likely require additional staff training and procedures. For more information on food allergen disclosure and labelling and other requirements of the Food Information Regulations, visit www.food.gov.uk/enforcement/regulation/fir/