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SME food allergen labelling guidance published

The Food Standards Agency is giving technical guidance to help small and medium-sized (SME) businesses comply with new rules on allergen labelling and information, which will take effect later this year.

Food businesses in the UK will have to follow new rules in labelling pre-packed foods and non-pre-packed (loose) foods from onwards of December 13th 2014. This is part of the European Union Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC) coming into force.

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
  • crustaceans
  • molluscs
  • eggs
  • fish
  • peanuts
  • nuts
  • soya
  • milk
  • celery
  • mustard
  • sesame
  • lupin
  • 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. It intends to help food businesses (especially small and medium enterprises) to comply with and develop an understanding in practically applying the new changes.

The main purpose and goal of this change is due to the importance associated with allergic reactions and the sometimes fatal result.  Presenting the correct allergen information is an important public health issue.

The allergen rules include labelling for pre-packed foods. These businesses will need to emphasise the inclusion of any one of the 14 allergens in the ingredients list.

There is also a new requirement for businesses that provide non-pre-packed foods such as restaurants, delis, takeaway businesses, food suppliers and institutional caterers. They will need to disclose to customers if any one of the 14 allergens is included. This can be done in a variety of 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.

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