New regulations on displaying allergen information on foods came into force on 13th December with 14 food ingredient covered in the new law.
The law changes the way customers must be alerted to allergenic ingredients in food, especially loose foods or goods you package yourself. This means any retailers who produce their own food in-store will have to display information.
The allergic ingredients covered by the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation are: celery, cereals containing gluten, crustaceans (such as crab, lobster, etc), eggs, fish, lupin (sometimes found in bread, pasta and pastries), milk, molluscs (such as mussels, squid, etc), mustard, nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, soya and sulphur dioxide/sulphites (often in dried fruits, wines and other alcohol).
The law is designed to protect customers that suffer from allergic reactions to food, and will be enforced by Trading Standards Officers. Breaches of the law may lead to enforcement action being taken against retailers.
The ACS is urging retailers to ensure they are following the correct practices. ACS Chief Executive, James Lowman, said: “It is important that retailers are aware of these changes to the law and how it will affect their business. In most cases, the responsibility will lie with suppliers. However, if retailers produce their own food in-store, or source loose food products from suppliers, it is very important they know how to comply with the new EU law”.
The ACS has published guildines for retailers to help them comply. The extent to which local retailers must comply depends on the services offered in-store:
1) Retailers only selling pre-packed, fully labelled food supplied by other manufacturers (including own brand goods)
Retailers in this category will not need to do anything as the law will affect the manufacturers and not them. However, retailers in this category should be aware of the changes to how allergens are listed on product labels and be looking out for new labels which may already be on the marketplace. New labels will have to have allergenic ingredients listed in BOLD.
2) Retailers sourcing food such as sandwiches, bread, cakes and savoury products locally
The suppliers of these foods to the retailers are responsible for putting the required information on a label on the food. If the food is not packaged (and therefore does not have a label attached) then the supplier must provide this information separately along with the food.
Retailers must then display this information in an obvious place so that customers are aware of what allergens are contained in the food.
3) Retailers making food themselves to sell in their store, sandwiches for example
Where retailers are making food themselves, they should either:
A) Package the food and put a label on it showing what allergens are present,
B) Signpost the consumer to the fact that allergens are present, using a notice, menu, chalkboard or information pack.
More guidance is available from the Food Standards Agency here.