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 and the most recent developments to bring you up to date:

6 April 2022 – Mandatory calorie labelling on menus

A new requirement for large food businesses (with more than 250 employees) in England to display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drink items. Calorie information must be shown at the point of choice for the customer, which may be a printed or online menu, food delivery platform or label. The measures include a provision allowing businesses to provide a menu without calorie information at the request of any customer who finds viewing calorie information difficult or distressing. Read our blog for more information on this new legislation.

1 October 2021 – New allergen labelling requirements apply to pre-packed for direct sale foods

Food businesses should check if The UK Food Information Amendment, also known as ‘Natasha’s Law‘, affects them and make sure that they are complying with the new legislation.  The allergen labelling requirements apply to a category of food called ‘prepacked for direct sale’ (PPDS). This is food packaged at the same place it is offered to consumers. It can include food that customers select themselves, as well as pre-wrapped products kept behind a counter. It can also include some food sold at mobile or temporary outlets. Read our blog for more information on this new legislation.

1 January 2021 – EU references in FSA guidance documents

The FSA is updating all EU references, to accurately reflect the law now in force, in all new or amended guidance published since the Transition Period ended at the end of 2020. Any references to EU Regulations in their guidance should be read as meaning retained EU law.

18 June 2020 – FSA publishes updated technical guidance to reflect changes to allergen labelling laws

These changes complement existing labelling rules on providing allergen information to consumers. The new food allergen and labelling requirements, which are now enshrined in legislation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will come into effect from 1 October 2021.

23 January 2020 – FSA publishes a consultation on updated guidance following change to allergen labelling law

After legislative changes were introduced in September 2019 (see above),  the FSA announced a six-week consultation on updates to its existing technical guidance to reflect changes to food allergen labelling legislation in England which come into effect on 1 October 2021. The consultation period ran from 23 January to 6 March 2020. Read the summary of responses.

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

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 suffered 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.

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’.