EU Regulations on allergen food labelling

Published: 11/03/2015

The EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation 1169/2011 (EU FIC) came into force on 13 December 2014. It changes the way allergen information appears on the labels of food that is pre-packed, sold loose or served outside of the home.

What are the changes?

Any of the 14 allergens that are on the regulatory list (which represents EU’s top 14 allergens) need to be emphasised on pre-packaged food labels. Food business operators (FBOs), being any entity responsible for ensuring that the requirements of food law are met within the business under their control, can choose a method to emphasise these allergens (e.g. bold, italics, highlighted or underlined etc.).

Information about allergenic ingredients must be located in a single place (i.e. an ingredient list). This means that the voluntary use of old types of allergy boxes (e.g. 'contains nuts’) which were previously used as a short-cut are no longer allowed.

For any loose food (that can be bought without packaging) allergen information must also be provided.

Food sold by any FBO (e.g. café, restaurant, school, pub or catering company) will need to state if any of the 14 allergens are included in their menu options. It is no longer acceptable for a FBO to state they do not know if allergens are present or that allergens ‘could’ be present. This means that FBOs need to conduct a comprehensive audit of every ingredient in their dishes, in order to display the relevant information on their menus and packaging. Alternatively, such information can be provided orally to customers by a member of staff – these oral statements may have to be backed up in writing.

What are the 14 allergens on the regulatory list?

The 14 allergens are:

  • eggs
  • milk
  • fish
  • crustaceans (e.g. crabs, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, prawn)
  • molluscs (e.g. mussels, oysters, squid)
  • Peanuts
  • tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, brazils, pistachios, macadamia nuts
  • sesame seeds
  • cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats or their hybridised strains)
  • soya
  • celery and celeriac
  • mustard
  • lupin
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at concentration of more than ten parts per million).
What is the effect of non-compliance?

Trading Standards officers are responsible for enforcing the regulations. Failure to comply with the requirements of the provisions of the EU FIC on allergenic labelling is a criminal offence and may result in a criminal prosecution being brought against a FBO.

Penalties will range from further advice/ formal enforcement notices, to court action with fines up to £5,000; however such fine could be increase to an unlimited amount under the new sentencing powers of the Magistrates' Court – more serious penalties will be reserved for where negligence is proved.

Our corporate criminal defence team advises and represents food producers on all aspects of regulatory and business crime. To discuss EU Regulations on allergen food labelling further please contact Matthew Gowen.

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