Meeting Allergen Labelling Regulations
Food businesses must now meet certain requirements relating to how allergen information appears on labels and on food that is pre-packed, sold loose (non-pre-packed) or provided when eating out
What is the Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC)?
A piece of European legislation, called the Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC) was introduced in December 2014. It brought general and nutrition labelling together into a single regulation to simplify and consolidate existing labelling legislation.
What changes did the regulation bring?
The regulation covers mandatory labelling obligations, a minimum font size for all legally required text, a mandatory nutrition declaration, a clearer indication of allergens and country of origin labelling.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for allergen labelling; Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and The Department of Health (DH) are leading on other food labelling elements of the regulation (The FSA has policy responsibility for food labelling and nutrition in Northern Ireland).
The changes mean that:
14 allergens are required to be emphasised within the ingredients list of prepacked food:
and information on these 14 allergens, when used as ingredients, must also be provided on loose foods, in an obvious place, for example on a:
recipe card or allergy folder
If it is not provided upfront, the Food Business Operator (FBO) will need to signpost where it can be obtained, either in writing or orally.
The voluntary use of allergy boxes to repeat mandatory ingredients information (such as ‘contains nuts’) is not permitted alongside an ingredients list.
Voluntary allergy advice statements (such as allergy advice: for allergens see ingredients in bold) to explain how allergen information is presented may be used. Please note: The provision of ‘may contain’ warnings will not change.
What if the food is sold long distance, for example, over the internet or phone?
If food is sold at a distance, such as through a telephone order for a takeaway, the allergen information must be offered and, where there is a need from the customer for allergen information, it must be provided before the purchase of the food is complete (this could be in writing or orally) and in a written format when the food is delivered.
How does this affect consumers?
EU FIC brought together several pieces of legislation into a single regulation to make it easier for consumers to understand labels. It is good news for consumers as these changes require the provisions of allergen information in a clearer and more consistent way; making it easier for them to make safer food choices when buying food.
What are the 14 allergens that must be listed and declared?
The 14 allergens which must be declared are recognised, across Europe, as the most common ingredients or processing aids causing food allergies and intolerances. If there is a food product that contains or uses an ingredient or processing aid (such as enzymes added to make cheese or wheat flour used to roll out dough made from rye flour) derived from one of the substances or products listed here, it will need to be declared by the FBO to the consumer.
These allergens are summarised in the table below:
There is a lot of free, easy-to-understand information on the FSA’s website: www.food.gov.uk/allergen-resources to help businesses with these rules.
There are also two videos (see via links below) available online of peoples’ experiences of living with allergies and advice for businesses that are keen to supply food people can trust: