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FWD’s Final Word: Allergens information

What’s up?

The government is consulting on allergen information for foods that are pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) to the consumer on the same premises from which they are sold.

That’s a bit of a mouthful…

It means food that is pre-packed in a sandwich shop or café or similar, for example prepared sandwiches or boxed salads on display. Some takeaways are PPDS and in a store it’s things like uncooked pizzas from the deli counter, salads, rotisserie chicken or wedges, and pre-weighed and packed cheese, meats from a delicatessen or baked goods.

What’s being looked at?

Shops and foodservice outlets will potentially be required to add labels providing allergen information to all PPDS products they sell.

Why do we have to do this?

In the UK, it’s estimated that 1–2% of adults and 5–8% of children have a food allergy – that’s about two million people. We have seen deaths due to insufficient allergen information being available to consumers. The food supply chain has to protect public health and provide appropriate information.

Okay, good reason. So, how?

There are four suggested options to deal with this. The first is to promote best practice without changing the law.

Sounds easy enough…

Option two is adding Ask the Staff stickers to packaging, so staff would have to provide information orally and in writing if asked.

That’s reasonable. Don’t they need to provide that information already?

It gets harder. Option three is labelling with the name of the food and list allergens, and option four is labelling food with the name of the food, full ingredients list and with allergens emphasised.

How would that work in practice?

With difficulty, particularly for smaller businesses. Even if they’re able to access the relevant information, full ingredient labelling would increase costs, as generic packaging would have to be supplemented with additional labelling. Adding a label may introduce the risk of mislabelling incidents, particularly in busy kitchen environments, where products containing different allergens are made simultaneously.

We might find businesses removing certain foods from their menu or avoiding specials to avoid the costs of extra labelling. Some argue that the cost of full labelling may stifle innovation and new product development, and constrain supply chain availability.

So, what are you doing about it?

We’re working closely with officials involved. An exemption for smaller businesses could be one option. Most importantly, we are pushing for a mandatory centralised database of allergen information, which wholesalers and caterers can use to get real-time allergen information quickly. And we want it to be a legal requirement that product reformulation which adds allergens is flagged by an automatic change in the barcode.

How would this help?

If suppliers were required to provide the information to a central point, allergen information would be readily accessible via apps – making it easier for caterers to either add a label or answer customer requests.

allergens food FWD legislation