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From 13th December 2014 new allergen labelling rules were put in force for businesses that supply food or drinks to consumers.

The relevant Regulations are the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulations and Food Information Regulations 2014. These regulations will take effect in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. So whether you are a food manufacturer, a restaurant, a mobile burger bar, a supplier of sandwiches to offices and shops or a catering kitchen, you are deemed a Food Business Operator and these new Regulations will apply to you.

It is estimated that in the UK 2 million people have a food allergy. An allergic reaction can be produced by a very small amount of the allergen and this can result in serious symptoms. Every year in the UK around 10 people dies from an allergic reaction to food.

People who have allergies need to avoid the food that causes the allergic reaction and consequently, they need to know whether or not the allergen is in the food they eat. For this reason, the Regulations require food businesses to provide clear and accurate information on the allergens present in the food they have produced and to ensure that all pre-packed food is clearly labelled for allergens.

Some of the groups of substances covered by the regulations include products that could cause allergies or intolerances like:

  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Crustaceans
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts and other nuts
  • Soybeans (although there are some exceptions)
  • Milk and milk products including lactose and again with some exceptions
  • Celery
  • Mustard
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg
  • Lupins
  • Products containing any form of Molluscs.

The Regulations apply to foods sold prepacked, non-prepacked and prepacked for direct sale by a food business. The Regulations do not apply to food provided by individuals who are not food businesses but may sometimes include food at charitable events or school cake sales.

The Regulations include a list of these most common ingredients and processing aids that cause food allergies and intolerance. In accordance with the legislation, if your food product contains or uses an ingredient or processing aid derived from one of the listed substances or products, then it will need to be declared to the customer.

For prepacked food, the Regulations require that the food business displays a list of each of the potential allergens they have used in either the preparation or manufacture of the food they are providing. The Regulations even give details about the size of the labels and the font that should be used so that the information is clearly displayed.

Prepacked products with old-style allergen labelling that are on the market or have been produced and labelled before 13th December 2014 can still be sold through until the stock has been used up. However, all prepacked food and drink products produced or labelled on or after 13th December 2014 must comply with the new labelling requirements.

For non-prepacked food and food prepacked for direct sale, in certain circumstances the Regulations allow this information to be provided orally.  Failure to comply with the Regulations is a criminal offence and can result in a fine and criminal prosecution.  Queries about the regulations can be made to your local enforcement agency; such as the Local Authority Trading Standards or Environmental Health Department.

We have put more information on these regulations on the student download area.