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New rules in December 2014Current allergen labelling rules will bechanging on 13 December 2014.However, many businesses are alreadystarting to make changes to how theylabel allergens on their products.Under the new rules, allergens will beemphasised on the label. Foodbusinesses can choose what methodthey want to use to emphasise these,for example, by listing them in bold asshown in the example below:OldINGREDIENTS: Water, Carrots, Onions, RedLentils (4.5%) Potatoes, Cauliflower, Leeks,Peas, Cornflour, Wheatflour, Salt, Cream,Yeast Extract, Concentrated Tomato Paste,Garlic, Sugar, Celery Seed, Vegetable Oil,Herb and Spice, White Pepper, Parsley.or use the words ‘from milk’ afterlisting the ingredient cream.Please note, that the new rules willmean that a ‘contains x’ allergenstatement can no longer be providedfor food alongside an ingredients list.Also, bear in mind that some products(such as tinned or dried food) have along shelf life. It’s possible that youcould see both types of labellingbeing used on these types ofproducts for a couple of years afterDecember 2014.It is important to always check theingredients list for informationabout allergens.NewINGREDIENTS: Water, Carrots, Onions, RedLentils (4.5%) Potatoes, Cauliflower, Leeks,Peas, Cornflour, Wheatflour, Salt, Cream,Yeast Extract, Concentrated Tomato Paste,Garlic, Sugar, Celery Seed, Vegetable Oil(sunflower), Herb and Spice, White Pepper,Parsley.Other types of emphasis may be usedas well, such as italics and underlinedor highlighted words. Somecompanies may also emphasise thewhole word for example: wheatflour5

What the new rules will bringFourteen major allergens identifiedFourteen major allergens will behighlighted on the label within theingredients list. They are:• cereals containing gluten• crustaceans, for example prawns,crabs, lobster and crayfish• eggs• fish• peanuts• soybeans• milk• nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts,walnuts, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts,pistachio, cashew and macadamia(Queensland) nuts• celery (and celeriac)• mustard• sesame• sulphur dioxide, which is apreservative found in some driedfruit• lupin• molluscs, for example clams,mussels, whelks, oysters, snails andsquidAllergens will be emphasisedFood businesses can choose whatmethod they want to use toemphasise these 14 allergens on theirproduct labels. For example, this couldbe done by listing them in bold,contrasting colours and underlining.Some may also use an allergy advicestatement on their products toexplain this, for example: AllergyAdvice: for allergens including cerealscontaining gluten, see ingredients inbold or Allergy Advice: for allergens,see ingredients in bold and othersimilar types of statements.All ingredients information in onelocationInformation about allergenicingredients will be located in a singleplace, i.e. the ingredients list. Thismeans that the voluntary use of thecurrent types of allergy boxes (suchas: ‘Contains nuts’) that provide ashort cut to allergen information alsogiven in the ingredients list, will nolonger be allowed.6

Allergy advice statementsWhere allergy advice statements areused on new labels, the statementswill direct consumers back to theingredients list to obtain informationon allergens. However, this isn’tcompulsory, so if there isn’t an advicestatement on the label, don’t assumethe product is free from the food oringredient you are sensitive to. Alwayscheck the ingredients.Check for ‘may contain’ warningsSome information provided by foodbusinesses will not change. Forexample, small amounts of aningredient that can cause an allergicreaction can sometimes get into aproduct following crosscontamination or through aproduction method, even thoughfood producers take great care tostop this happening.If there is a possibility that this couldhave happened, the product’s labelmight say something such as ‘Maycontain: nuts, milk’. These warningsshould always be taken seriously.The new allergen labelling rules willnot control how businesses chooseto provide this information.References to glutenThe voluntary ‘Contains gluten’statements that some businessescurrently use will be phased out.You will need to look for the cerealscontaining gluten. For example wheat,rye, and barley will be emphasisedwithin the ingredients list.ImportantThere will be a period of time where you may see old and new styleallergy advice statements. These types of statements are not a legalrequirement but many food companies choose to provide suchstatements. If there isn’t an advice statement don’t assume that theproduct is free from a food you are trying to avoid. Always check theingredients list for allergen information.7

When buying...‘Free from’ foodsMost of the major supermarkets andfood service providers produce listsof the products they sell that are ‘freefrom’ particular foods or ingredients,such as gluten, egg or milk.The measures used to manufacturesuch foods ensure that theingredients are handled and the finalproducts are made in ways thatprevent accidental contaminationwith other allergenic ingredients.Make sure you keep your ‘free from’lists up to date. Even if you have a‘free from’ list, always check theingredients on a product, becauserecipes can change.People often assume wrongly that a‘free from’ product is suitable for anytype of food allergy. You need to readthe label carefully because theproduct may still not be free from theallergen that affects you.For example, a product that is ‘milkfree’ could contain eggs; or productsthat are lactose free could containmilk protein. The ingredients listshould be checked carefully beforepurchase and consumption.Many supermarkets and health-foodshops also sell special ranges ofproducts that don’t contain certainfoods or ingredients.Some people find these convenient,but they can be more expensive.Remember that lots of normal foodswon’t contain the food you are tryingto avoid, so there’s no need to stickjust to specialist foods.Food onlineMost websites selling food giveinformation about their products thatwill help you choose items that don’tcontain the food you need to avoid.However, this information might notalways be up to date, so always checkthe ingredients list or label or speakto a member of staff every time youorder or have food delivered.8

Foods without packaging andwhen eating outCurrently, foods purchased withoutpackaging or upon a customer’srequest, in supermarkets, delis, cafesand restaurants, don’t have to provideinformation you need about foodallergens. Examples of such food arebread, salads, cold meats and meals.How things will changeThis will change from 13 December 2014.From this date, information on any ofthe 14 allergens used as ingredients willneed to be provided for foods soldwithout packaging or wrapped on site.This information could be writtendown on a chalk board or chart, orprovided orally by a member of staff.Where the specific allergen informationis not provided upfront, clearsignposting to where this informationcould be obtained must be provided.These rules will only coverinformation about major allergensintentionally used as ingredients.They do not cover allergens presentfollowing accidental contact.Allergic to food not on the listIf you are allergic to a food that is noton the regulatory list, it may not beincluded on the allergen informationprovided. If in doubt, speak to amember of staff.However, as this information does notneed to be provided at present, beaware that the person serving youmight not actually know what is in thefoods. Don’t take risks if you or theyaren’t sure.9

Carry a chef cardYou could carry a ‘chef card’ to giveto the restaurant staff. This will tellthe chef which foods you need toavoid.You can download chef cards is possible to obtain cards forforeign holidays – check thewebsites listed on page 16.Think AllergyI have an allergy to:Please check my meal does not contain this food.Just a small amount could make me very of accidental contact withfood you need to avoidIt’s possible that small amounts of thefood you need to avoid may havecome into contact with another food.For example, foods can come intocontact with allergens from being nextto them, or from using the same knifeor spoon, or from being wrapped inpaper that has touched another food.This is a particular problem with seedssuch as sesame and mustard, and nuts,which can fall off baked items, and atdeli counters, where little pieces offood can drop into another bowl.As the new allergen labelling rules donot cover accidental presence dueto cross contamination, you will stillneed to be careful when buyingsuch foods.10

Your quick check...When buying pre-packedfood• Be aware of changes. Due to a newpiece of legislation, there will besome changes to the way thatallergen information appears onlabels.• Allergens will be emphasised in theingredients list to help you identifythem. Food businesses can usetheir own method of emphasis, forexample bold or italics, underlinedor highlighted.• The use of statements such as‘Contains: milk, nuts’ to summariseallergen ingredient information onthe packaging will no longer bepermitted. The only exception tothis is for products that do nothave an ingredients list, such aswine where a ‘Contains: sulphites’would appear.• Always check the ingredients list tofind out the allergens used in theproduct.• No more references to gluten inthe voluntary allergen statement.Cereals containing gluten will beemphasised within theingredients list.• Some information stays the same.Information on the potential risk ofcross contamination with otherallergens is not affected by thenew rules. It can appear on labels inthe same manner as it does now.• Mix of old and new. Until all thelabels have changed, you will seeold and new labels on productsin-store for a period of time. Tomake sure you have the correctinformation, always read theingredients list.11

When eating out or buyingloose foods (withoutpackaging)• If you have a severe allergy orintolerance, remember that whenyou eat food prepared by someoneelse, for example in a café orrestaurant, there are ways to reducethe chances of eating somethingthat you are sensitive to.• When eating out, let the personserving you know your dietaryrequirements and how severe yourfood allergy or intolerance is.• Read the menu carefully to see ifthere is any mention of the foodyou react to in the name ordescription of a dish. Always checkwith the waiter or waitress aboutthe whole dish – for example, apizza base may contain anunexpected ingredient, or buttermay have been added tovegetables, or gravy may containmilk powder. If the staff don’t seemsure that the dish is free from thatfood, it’s better to ask them tocheck with the chef or ordersomething else.• When you order your food, makesure the waiter writes down yourallergy. Ask them to give the noteto the chef or request to speakdirectly to the chef, as messagescan be easily forgotten or passedon incorrectly. Always check whatallergens are in the dish even if youhave eaten it before; recipes andingredients can change.• If you are not confident in theinformation you have beenprovided, it is better not to eat atthe premises.12

• Ask about the dishes. Somerestaurants provide dishes that arefree from particular foods oringredients, such as ‘gluten free’.Ask whether they provide dishesthat are suitable for your dietaryrequirements. Be careful when yousee ‘wheat free’ dishes for example,as they might not be ‘gluten free’.• Watch out when using self-serviceareas. Some restaurants and caféshave self-service areas where foodis in open containers. Even thoughsome dishes might not contain thefood you react to, it’s easy for asmall amount to get into a dishaccidentally, either becausecontainers are next to each other,or because people use the sametongs or spoons for differentdishes.• Beware of particular dishes. If youare allergic to peanuts, nuts orseeds you need to be very carefulwith certain cuisines such as NorthAfrican, Chinese, Thai, Indian andMalaysian, because they oftencontain peanuts, nuts and sesame.This is not always obvious. Forexample, peanut flour might beused to thicken a sauce, or thefood might have been cookedusing a nut oil.• Know that it is common practicefor a wok to be wiped betweendishes as the high cookingtemperatures involved kill anygerms. But this doesn’t removetraces of allergens. There is also agreater risk of the food you mightbe sensitive to accidentally gettinginto another dish if the sameserving spoons or utensils are usedfor different dishes.• If in doubt, don’t eat it! If you can’tbe sure that dishes are free frompeanuts, nuts and seeds (and notcooked in nut, groundnut orsesame oil) it’s safer to avoid eatingmeals or takeaways from thesetypes of restaurant.When the new rules are in place, youmay still find that some restaurantsmay have a very limited choice ofitems not containing the food towhich you react, or that the crosscontamination risk may be high dueto the handling process.13

Allergy alertsAffected foods need to be withdrawnfrom sale:• when the allergy information oningredients food labels is missing orincorrect• if there is some other allergy risk,such as increased levels of crosscontamination of an undeclaredallergen.When this happens, the FoodStandards Agency, or one of thesupport groups, can let you know byissuing an allergy alert.Subscribe to keep informedIf you want to know when a food hasbeen withdrawn because of a foodallergy risk, you can sign up for a freeSMS text message or email service onthe Food Standards Agency’s website.Just go to: UK, the Anaphylaxis Campaignand Coeliac UK also issue alerts totheir members. See their websites formore information.14

For more information and advice about food allergies and labelling, visit:www. or UKtel: 01322 619898email: info@allergyuk.orgwww.allergyuk.orgThe Anaphylaxis Campaigntel: 01252 542029email: British Dietetic Associationtel: 0121 200 8080email: with usThe British Nutrition Foundationemail: Retail Consortiumtel: 020 7854 8900web: UKtel: 0845 305 2060web: and Drink Federationtel: 020 7836 2460web: usJoin our conversation @foodgovWatch usGet our news by RSSGet our news by by the Food Standards Agency November 2013© Crown copyright 2013Any enquiries regarding the use and re-use of this information resourceshould be emailed to: in England [FSA/1699/1113]Food Standards Agency

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