Food Allergen Labelling Regulations

It is estimated there are around 2 million people living in the UK with a food allergy and that’s excluding those with food intolerances. This means the actual number of affected people living with food allergies and/or a food intolerance is actually considerably more. An allergic reaction can be triggered by the smallest amounts of a food ingredient that a person is sensitive to, such as a teaspoon of powdered milk, a fragment of peanut or just one or two sesame seeds. Symptoms of an allergic reaction range from mild itching and a rash around the mouth but can progress to more severe reactions such as vomiting, diarrhoea, wheezing and anaphylaxis shock. It’s a serious subject, as around ten people in the UK die from allergic reactions to food, every year.

There are 14 identified allergen foods that require a warning:

  • Cereals containing gluten (e.g. wheat, barley)
  • Celery
  • Crustaceans (e.g. prawns, crabs, lobsters)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Lupin
  • Milk
  • Molluscs (e.g. clams, oysters, mussels, squid)
  • Mustard
  • Nuts
  • Sesame
  • Soya beans
  • Sulphites (mostly naturally occurring but mainly additives in some foods that help act as a preservative, maintain colour or prolong shelf life)

Surprisingly, there are no cures for food allergies. Avoidance is the only way to manage the condition. Simply, this can be achieved by visually checking the ingredients details on labels of pre-packed foods and being provided allergen ingredients information for non-prepacked foods.  Therefore, it is very important that food manufacturers and businesses provide clear, accurate information about allergenic ingredients in their products. This is provided by the EU directive; Food Information for Consumers (EU FIC) regulation and this is how new rules for food businesses relating to the labelling and provision of allergen information are introduced.  This latest directive is regulation No. 1169/2011.

What are the main allergen labelling changes?

Food manufacturers who supply pre-packed foods already follow specific requirements. The EU FIC however, has introduced a new requirement to emphasise any of the 14 specific allergens in the ingredients list of a product.

In an attempt to limit the cost of wasted packaging, any pre-packed foods with the old style allergen labelling that were placed on the market or labelled before 13 December 2014 can still be sold until stocks have been used up. However, frozen, tinned or dried food products have a long shelf life, so it will be likely therefore to see both types of labelling being used on these types of products for a few years after the application date.

The EU FIC allergen requirements makes it clear when the food manufacturer has not complied with how allergen information should be declared on the label or packaging, therefore failure to meet the allergen labelling requirements is a criminal offence, due to the impact of non-compliance on public health.

The UK Food Standards Agency have produced a comprehensive technical guide about food allergen labelling which can be downloaded from this link:

What about non-compliant packaging and pre-printed labels?

Packaging of pre-packed food is a costly business and cartons, sleeves and labels are usually ordered in large volumes to get around minimum order pricing and achieve economies of scale.  This however has left many companies faced with the task of potentially having to dispose of old stock and needing to re-order their packaging with new artwork to suit the allergen advice they are now required to give.

Using contract over-labelling services

One solution to reducing the waste and saving costs is rather than discard the old packaging, why not re-label (or over-label) the non-compliant area with corrective details that comply?  Executed well, using permanent block-out adhesive that does not allow the print underneath to show through, a low-cost (usually single-colour) label can usually be applied to cover only the affected area.

Advanced Labelling Systems Ltd provides an efficient contract labelling service for both the packaging trade and end-user manufacturers, to enable them to be compliant quicker and at a fraction of the cost of re-producing the packaging from scratch.  ALS can accept pallets of unfilled product packaging, they will print and die-cut the labels and then apply them to an accuracy of +/- 1mm, then re-pack and return again, with a quick turn-around.

If you have a need to over-label your packaging, give us a call on 01844 264835 or for more information, click this link: