New allergen labelling rules imminent

New allergen labelling comes into force tomorrow (13 December 2014), including new labelling protocol for frozen meat and frozen meat preperations.

The new EU Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC), requires certain foods to state the day, month and year the product was “frozen on”, when talking about frozen meat products.

The allergen products which must be labelled include celery, eggs, mustard, soya and sulphur dioxide, which are used in non-prepacked or loose foods.

Wide ranging changes to labelling of packaged food and drink, including lay-out and information, also comes into force tomorrow.

The Food and Drink Foundation (FDF) has issued a list of the top five things to look out for when labelling packaged products. These include:

  1. Allergens will now be emphasised in the ingredients list; statements such as 'Contains: milk, nuts' are no longer permitted on-pack, though precautionary labelling such as 'May contain: milk, nuts' will still be used.
  2. A minimum font size has been set for mandatory information to increase legibility.
  3. Nutrition information is now a mandatory requirement and will usually be provided on the 'back of pack'. The nutrient content will always be shown per 100g. 'Front of pack' labelling remains voluntary and there are new requirements to increase consistency and aid usage.
  4. The specific types of vegetable oils that are contained within a food or drink will now appear in the ingredients list.
  5. From April 2015, labels will show the origin of unprocessed pig, sheep, goat and poultry meat on-pack following an extension of country of origin labelling.

Supply standards association GS1 UK asked its members about implementing the new labelling, and one said the biggest problem facing businesses was timing. Chris Binge, Fairway Foodservice plc said: “The main issue regarding labelling compliance has been around timing - although the legislation was passed by the EU legislative body some time ago, many businesses started their compliance work late as industry bodies in the UK sought government clarification on a number of points and my understanding is that ‘clarification’ wasn’t forthcoming until relatively recently and consequently ‘everyone’ is looking for packaging re-design and packaging production which is causing a bottleneck.

“The timing of the introduction of legislation in December – one of the busiest times of year for all of us - could have been better considered and clearer, definitive advice given earlier, but eventually the industry will benefit as well as consumers.”

Another member highlighted how the new legislation creates an added cost for business which will inevitably be passed on customers.

The new regulations affects all food outlets, including foodservice establishments. Jackie Grech, legal and policy director of The Restaurant Association said the new labelling would be advantagious for customers: “The new food allergen regulation should give all diners across the EU access to reliable information on ingredients served in and out of home, for example hotels and restaurants, food stalls and festivals.

“Food allergies can cause very serious health problems making it very difficult for a limited few to enjoy a ‘night on the town’. In this industry success is measured one customer at a time. Make no mistake, the Food Allergens Regulation will be challenging and cumbersome to implement, especially for small businesses and it is fraught with practical difficulties. But, if it serves the customer, then it serves the industry too.”

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