Allergen labelling laws: the countdown is on for food businesses

30th October 2020

The countdown is on for major changes to the way certain foods are labelled within the UK are introduced. On 1 October 2021, new allergen labelling laws in relation to pre-packed food for direct sale will come into effect in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Pre-packed food for direct sale encompasses all food which is packaged at the same place it is offered to customers; and should already be in its packaging before it is order or selected by the consumer. For example, those sausage rolls that we all know and love from a famous high street bakery.

Current legislation requires that allergen information is available on request, with no specific requirements as to how the information is provided. At present, therefore, allergen information can be provided within a document available to the consumer, or verbally from members of staff. Food businesses will often prefer to use the former method to ensure consistency.

Food allergen labelling laws within the UK emanate from Regulation 1169/2011, which was made directly enforceable within England, Wales and Northern Ireland by their respective Food Information Regulations 2014.

It will no longer be sufficient, therefore, for allergen information to be available on request. Food businesses have a year to work out what adjustments need to be made, in order to ensure they are compliant in time for the change in the law.

The new law is intended to protect those consumers who are hypersensitive to certain foods, and follows the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, as a result of an allergic reaction caused by a baguette from a popular coffee shop chain. The baguette was pre-packed for direct sale, but was not required to have specific allergen labelling. A view was formed that this created potential confusion for consumers,  and so the new law was designed to address this. Similar changes are also expected to be introduced in Scotland by Food Standards Scotland.

If you would like any advice in relation to the change in the law and how it will affect your business, or indeed any advice in respect of food allergen labelling generally, please do not hesitate to contact with our food law experts.

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