The European Union (EU) is introducing new legislation aimed at improving consumer awareness of allergens contained in foods and drinks.
From tomorrow (13 December) food businesses – including producers, manufacturers, retailers, institutional caterers and restaurants – will have to highlight the presence of 14 major allergens identified by the EU in pre-packaged and non pre-packed foods.
The 14 allergens are: cereals containing gluten; crustaceans; eggs; fish; peanuts; soybeans; milk; nuts; celery; mustard; sesame seeds; sulphur dioxide at levels above 10mg/kg; lupin; and molluscs.
The purpose of the EU’s Food Information for Consumers Regulation is to consolidate existing labelling legislation and protect many of the two million people in the UK who suffer from food allergies* by providing clear, accessible and comprehensible information. Food businesses will benefit from legal certainty due to the simplification of the law.
The regulations apply to food businesses undertaking activities related to any stage of production, processing, and distribution of food. Individuals that do not operate food businesses and provide food at one-off-events such as charity events do not need to follow these requirements.
Under the terms of the new regulations, allergens contained in pre-packed foods must be marked directly on the packaging in a conspicuous, legible, visible and, where appropriate, indelible way.
For non pre-packed foods, information can be provided directly to the consumer (e.g. on a menu or displayed on a chalkboard). Otherwise, such information must be signposted to the consumer with a notice that such information is available upon request.
Enforcement of the new regulations will be undertaken by either Trading Standards or Environmental Health Officers. Failure to comply with the regulation will be treated as a criminal offence, with magistrates able to hand down a fine of up to £5,000.
For more legal advice about defending any enforcement proceedings, please contact a member of Thrings’ Business Crime team.
* Excludes those with food intolerances