The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has issued guidance for industry on food allergen labelling to help companies comply with a new EU law, in collaboration with the UK’s Food and Drink Federation.
Under the new Food Information for Consumers (EU FIC) regulation, companies will no longer be allowed to use ‘contains…’ statements that many food manufacturers have been using to alert consumers to the presence of allergens. Instead, they will be required to highlight allergens in bold text within the ingredient list itself, and add a statement reading “For allergens see ingredients in bold”.
Companies have until December 2014 to introduce the new labelling requirements.
Specifically, the BRC’s document provides guidance that it hopes will ensure food companies take a consistent approach to allergen labelling.
The BRC acknowledged that there may be room for more information on an EU-wide basis, and it was possible that the European Commission and national governments might publish guidance of their own.
Food manufacturers must label 14 allergens under EU law – peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, mustard, eggs, lupin, milk, fish, cereals containing gluten, sesame, celery, sulphur dioxide, molluscs and crustaceans. For products that do not intentionally contain these as ingredients, current industry best practice is simply to take all necessary precautions to avoid cross contamination and flag up the possibility of allergens' unintentional presence.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency said it welcomed BRC’s guidance document and its efforts to achieve greater consistency in food allergen labelling.
“This consistent approach will make it much easier for the allergic consumer to find and understand the allergen information provided on prepacked foods and help them to make safer food choices,” it said.
The full guidance document is available online here (pdf).