Come the 13th December 2014, it will be compulsory for all purchased food to clearly display the 14 common food allergens. This new legislation includes all pre-packed products, unwrapped food and food sold within restaurants.
The main reason behind this change is that the EU FIC is trying to make food labelling simpler and easier to understand for the consumer. The latest labelling regulation 1169/2011 was introduced in October 2011. The FIC (Food Information for Consumers) has given manufacturers 3 years in which to comply with the new regulation and must conform to the new labelling system by the 13th December next year.
Anyone with a food allergy will know just how difficult it can be to shop safely. Even when we convince ourselves that a certain product probably doesn’t contain a particular allergen, we may later regret taking that gamble. This is especially the case when eating out in restaurants or purchasing sandwiches for example that don’t provide a list of ingredients. With around 21 million adults in the UK suffering from a food allergy it’s more important than ever to make these allergens clearly visible within our foods. The number of people affected each year is increasing by 5%, and more worryingly still, is that half of these are children. It’s estimated that around 6-8% of our children are affected by some sort of food allergen.
The current labelling system often contains a non-compulsory box which tells us the specific allergens, if any, contained within the product e.g. Contains: milk, wheat, gluten etc. However, because this isn’t compulsory, some manufacturers do not provide this information so we should still ensure we check the list of ingredients to be safe. Because of this inconsistency, the new regulation prohibits these ‘Contains’ boxes altogether.
Instead of this, the new system will only show the full list of ingredients. Any food within that list classed as one of the 14 official allergens must be highlighted in one of the following ways: italicised, bold, underlined or coloured. This should help sufferers easily identify their allergens therefore knowing they can safely rely on the consistency of this new regulation.
However, those with a need to avoid Gluten will need to know the specific grains in which this is derived from. This is because the ingredient highlighted as the allergen will be that of the cereal that contains the gluten i.e. Wheat, Barely, Rye, Oats, Spelt etc. This will mean that gluten sensitive people, especially children will have a greater need to know these cereals.
Those suffering from milk allergies will need to be aware that the term ‘Milk’ will only be used if it has come specifically from a cow and not any other animal. So if a product contains butter for example that could have come from the milk of another animal, this will not be highlighted as an allergen amongst the ingredients.
It’s expected that most manufacturers will use bold writing in their ingredients list, but with other acceptable ways of highlighting allergens this could take a bit of getting used to. An added benefit to this new compulsory food allergen though is that the labelling system will hopefully cause consumers to be more aware of the other ingredients within their food and ultimately making them more conscious of what they’re eating. It will also hopefully make more people aware of the 14 official food allergens that would previously have been unknown.
If you need help with the creation and design of your food labels that we are Labelservice offer a no obligation labelling consultation. Feel free to contact us today.