UK introduces new regulations on food allergen labeling

Earlier this week new European legislation went into effect that requires food producers to make changes to their pre-packaged food labels so they emphasize 14 different allergens if they are used as ingredients. These changes will provide allergen information in a clearer and more consistent way, making it easier for consumers to make safer food choices when buying food or dinning out.

Known as the Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC), the 14 allergens that are required to be labeled include in the following:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Crustaceans (for example crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, prawn)
  • Mollusks (for example mussels, oysters, squid)
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, brazils, pistachios, macadamia nuts or Queensland nuts)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Cereals containing gluten such as wheat (spelt, Khorasan wheat/Kamut), rye, barley, oats, or their hybridized strains
  • Soy
  • Celery and celeriac
  • Mustard
  • Lupine
  • Sulfur dioxide and sulfites (at concentration of more than 10 parts per million)

Europe’s Food Standards Agency states that businesses can choose what method they use to emphasize these allergens and can list them in bold, italics, or have them highlighted or underlined, for example. All allergen information must also be located in a single place, meaning that the voluntary use of the current types of allergy boxes (such as: “Contains nuts”) will no longer be allowed. Loose foods that can be bought without packaging are also now required to provide allergy information, which was previously not the case.

According to a recent article, labeling-software company, Trade One, has estimated that the average cost of a label change is €3,000 per product. This means that large retailers with 10,000 product lines could spend up to €30 million on compliance. However, the cost of discarding a finished product, redesigning labels and then manufacturing and redistributing replacement stock in the event of a mistake, could exceed €100,000 per product. This is on top of fines of €5,000 or more per incident of non-compliant labeling, plus the cost of recalled items.

“Closer collaboration and complete transparency between retailers, manufacturers and suppliers will be critical in validating that products are what they say they are,” Nick Martian, senior vice president for Northern Europe for Trade One said in the article. “Retailers and manufacturers should ensure that all data is transparently shared between all parties in the supply chain so information such as country of origin and primary ingredients can be quickly and easily determined.”

The article goes on to say that regardless of the legislation, retailers risk alienating a whole new generation of consumers if they choose not to focus on quality and providing complete transparency when it comes to food products.

“The savvy shopper having been put-off by recent food scares is now demanding more information than ever before,” Martian said.



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