It is vital to label allergens on food or fragile packaging. Failure to do so is not only illegal but can cause death. Some people are allergic to certain types of food and ingredients. If they become exposed to these substances, it could make them ill. The results could even be life-threatening. There is currently no known cure for food allergies. The only way to manage them is to avoid contact with certain food types.
Allergic reactions range from mild to severe, and even the most minor exposure can prove fatal. Allergens are proteins found in food and, there is usually more than one that can make you ill. The slightest exposure to an allergen is enough to cause severe illness. If there is even a fragment of a known allergen in the food you prepare, you must label it.
The Fourteen Major Allergens
Around ten people a year die from food allergies in the UK. Under the EU’s Food Information for Consumers Regulations, fourteen allergens must be displayed on all food packaging.
These allergens are:
- Cereals including gluten
- Milk (Cows)
- Sesame seeds
- Sulfur dioxide (sometimes known as sulfites)
How Allergens Should Be Labelled
Within the ingredients list for prepackaged foods, you must declare the presence of allergens. The method you choose for highlighting the allergen in the ingredient list will depend on your preference. You can highlight them or list them in bold or contrasting colours.
You may also choose to include an allergy advice statement on the product label to explain how you highlight allergens in the ingredients list. How you decide to do this will be your preference. One example might be, Allergy Advice: for allergens, see ingredients in bold.
Suppose you produce foods containing allergens that do not need to have an ingredients list, for example, a bottle of wine. You should display labels such as contains sulphites.
When labelling allergens on ingredients lists, it is a legal requirement to declare the ingredient and the allergen, for example, tahini paste (Sesame). If a product contains more than one allergen, each one must be listed individually. Every ingredient containing an allergen must be identifiable on food labels.
Food labels are not voluntary and must adhere to the EU FIC standards and Regulations. It is no longer enough to place a voluntary statement on the packaging that declares, may contain milk and nuts.
It is a legal necessity to declare each allergen in the ingredient list. The same is true if you sell prepackaged food online or via mail order. Consumers must be made aware of ingredients in foods they intend to buy before they complete the sale, just as they would in a brick and mortar shop.
Precautionary Labels and Cross-Contamination
As a responsible food manufacturer, you are likely to take cross-contamination very seriously. Even the most diligent producers can sometimes fall short and, cross-contamination can happen during the manufacturing process or in transit and delivery.
The EU FIC standards do not set out any regulations on precautionary statements. Still, as a manufacturer, you may choose to add a label to your products, such as “May contain nuts” if you think there is even the slightest chance of cross-contamination.
Free From Food Labels
If you are a specialist food producer, the chances are that you are making prepackaged food that excludes certain allergenic foods. There is legislation that governs gluten-free food labelling. It is unclear what standards govern other allergens and are free from labels.
If you plan to use a free from the label, you must carry out rigorous and thorough checks on everything that comes into contact with that food during the manufacturing process and packaging. You must do a risk assessment on your ingredients and know where they are sourced and how they are prepared before they reach you.
It’s equally important to know that the plastics or packaging you use don’t contain any contaminants or allergens that you are claiming to be free of.
Foods Packaged On-Premises and Natashas Law
Likewise, food made on-site, such as sandwiches, salads, pies or cakes, must be labelled with allergen information. Whether pre-packed or homemade, there should be adequate signage. Customers should have the opportunity to ask the person who made or packed the food for accurate and detailed advice about potential allergens.
In October 2021, new legislation known as Natashas Law came into effect. Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died on a flight to Nice after consuming a Pret a Manger baguette that contained sesame seeds. It is now a legal requirement that all food prepared on-site displays clear allergen information.
What Could Happen To Your Business?
Around 200 000 people in the UK suffer some form of food allergy. Over five thousand people a year are admitted to hospital for food allergy treatment each year and around ten people a year still die from contaminated food. If you would like more information on how to ready food allergy labels check out our blog on the topic.
Failure to comply with food labelling legislation has real-world consequences for your customers and consumers and could have a detrimental impact on your business too. Before Natashas Law, the fine for failure to comply with labelling laws was capped at £20000. Since October, the cap has been lifted. There is no upper limit to the fine so, what you pay will depend on the severity of your negligence and the size of your company.
Along with fines, your business will suffer adverse publicity and may never fully recover. Food labelling may feel like yet more red tape in your ever-growing to-do list but keeping your consumers safe and healthy has to be your top priority. In addition to allergy stickers here at Price Stickers, we are proud to offer general food stickers, and feedback stickers among others. If you would like advice on the right option for you or would like to learn more about us, contact us today.