EU legislation regarding food labelling came into effect on 13th December 2014. These regulations are the EU Food Information Regulation No. 1169/2011, also known as FIR, and the Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIC). This new legislation has had a considerable impact on food retailers, caterers and many other organisations working within the food industry. The regulations dictate that it is now mandatory to present food allergen information on labels in a certain way, but this legislation also governs how information is provided regarding allergens. There are 14 allergens listed as part of this legislation, and if they are contained within foods that are sold or served, it must be made clear to the person purchasing the product.

The 14 allergens

The 14 allergens are cereals, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soya, milk, tree nuts (such as almonds and cashews), celery, mustard, sesame, sulphur dioxide, lupin and molluscs. As many of these could be listed under different words, it is important that products are labelled correctly. Milk and eggs, for example, might not be categorised in the product in their whole form. The product might only contain an extract, but it is still important to make the consumer aware that it is there.

Recording allergens is important because for some it could be a matter of life or death. Those who suffer from a nut allergy, for example, may not be aware if nuts have been used in a sauce, but the result could be fatal.

New labelling

To ensure that the public is aware of the 14 allergens, information must be located on the label in a single place. The legislation has affected the way in which information is worded, and this is why it is so important for people to read labels on the products that they are buying. It is still possible for products to have the “May contain…” labelling to make people aware that there is a possibility that some goods have come into contact with these ingredients — for example, if a product that does not contain nuts is produced in a factory where nuts are used in other foods.

One of the major changes concerning the labelling laws is that it was not previously necessary for loose foods to be labelled to draw your attention to possible allergens. It was not compulsory for foods sold in cafés or restaurants, for example, to be labelled this way, but now the responsibility rests with the vendor to ensure that the customer is aware of the presence of allergens.

In the event of incorrect labelling, the legislation requires the mandatory recall of goods or the withdrawal from sale of that product in order to ensure that consumers are protected as much as possible from unintentional contact with one of the 14 allergens.

There is a great deal of guidance available on the 14 allergens and the new legislation. While it may look complicated on the surface, the aim is simply to raise awareness and ensure that consumers are protected from any possible health risks.

PSL have created What’s in My Dish, a free service for all of our customers to help make allergen management easy. This system enables you to publish fully up to date allergen menus both on your website and within your restaurant, and ensures that your front of house teams have easy access to the important information.