The FSA is issuing technical guidance to help small and medium-sized (SME) businesses comply with new rules on allergen labelling and information, which take effect later this year. The guidance is being published following a public consultation.
From 13 December 2014, food businesses in the UK will have to follow new rules in labelling pre-packed foods and non-prepacked (loose) foods. This is part of the European Union Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC) coming into force.
The 14 allergens
The new rules require food businesses to provide information on the presence of 14 allergens, if added or used as ingredients in food. The 14 allergens as listed in the EU FIC are:
- cereals containing gluten
- sulphur dioxide (at a level above 10mg/kg or 10mg/litre)
The FSA guidance provides detailed interpretations of the EU FIC’s allergen requirements and, where appropriate, examples of best practice. It intends to help food businesses (especially small and medium enterprises) to comply with the changes and develop understanding in practically applying the new requirements.
The key points of the guidance are:
- Due to the severity associated with allergic reactions – and the sometimes fatal result – presenting accurate allergen information is an important public health issue and the main reason behind this change.
- The allergen rules include labelling changes to current rules for prepacked foods. These businesses will need to emphasis the inclusion of any one of the 14 allergens in the ingredients list.
There is also a new requirement for businesses that provide non-prepacked foods (such as restaurants, delis, takeaway businesses, food suppliers and institutional caterers). They will need to declare the inclusion of any one of the 14 allergens to customers in a variety of possible ways, such as on menus and chalkboards, clear signposting to where the information can be obtained and through oral communication. The allergen information should be accurate, consistent and verifiable upon challenge (for example, when asked by a consumer or a local authority food safety officer)