Food allergens and the law

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Using Menu Guide to show an allergen menu on a tablet

Legal requirements for UK food businesses

If you run a food business in the UK, you must comply with the relevant legislation. Here’s a quick recap to bring you up to date:

13 December 2014 – European Union Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU Reg 1169/2011) came into UK law

The regulations, which apply to a wide range of food businesses (including restaurants, cafes, bakeries, takeaways, caterers and mobile traders) changed how allergen information is provided and presented to customers.

Specifically, the law introduced new requirements for food businesses to:
– emphasise any of the 14 allergens (see below) in the ingredients list of prepacked food
– provide information on allergenic ingredients, in writing and/or orally, for non-prepacked food

The 14 allergens named in the legislation are recognised across Europe as the most common ingredients causing food allergies and intolerances. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) provides clear, helpful advice and guidance to food businesses on how to manage allergens and communicate information to customers.

It’s worth noting the FSA’s statement that ‘the use of icons or symbols to indicate the presence of allergens is permitted as long as it is accompanied by words and numbers to ensure uniform consumer understanding. Currently there is no single agreed set of icons or symbols across Europe for indicating the presence of allergens in prepacked and non-prepacked foods’.

5 September 2019 – UK Government introduces a new Statutory Instrument known as ‘Natasha’s Law’

From 1 October 2021, food businesses in England will be required by law to include full ingredients labelling on Pre-Packed for Direct Sale (PPDS) foods.  According to the new rules, PPDS food will have to clearly display the name of the food and full ingredients list, with allergenic ingredients emphasised (for example in bold, italics or a different colour).

The new legislation was introduced following the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after suffering an allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette (see our industry news section). It will apply only to foods that are prepared and packed on the same premises from which they are sold – such as a packaged sandwich or salad made by staff earlier in the day and placed on a shelf for purchase. The new legislation will not apply to non-prepacked food.

18 September 2019 – FSA Board announces plans to protect people with food allergies and intolerances

Following the inquest into the death of Owen Carey, who died after having an allergic reaction to milk (see our industry news section), the FSA board announced the following measures:
– Issuing a clear and easy to follow aide-memoire for enforcement officers (Environmental Health Officers and Trading Standards Officers) focused specifically on the action they should be taking within business in relation to food allergies
– Publishing an urgent update of the highly-regarded ‘Safer Food Better Business’ guide, including a review of on the allergens information included
– At the end of the year, launching an awareness campaign to remind businesses and consumers about how to keep people with food allergies safe
– Implementating a pilot project to develop better reporting of allergic reactions