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In this section we look at:
The Food Safety Act 1990 (amended 2004) provides the framework for all food legislation in Britain. Similar legislation applies in Northern Ireland.
The main responsibilities for all food businesses under the Act are:
The General Food Regulation 178/2002 provides a framework for food law within the EC and imposes obligations both on Member States and on food and feed business operators.
The labelling rules in European Directives 2003/89/EC and 2006/142/EC ensure that people with food allergies can identify ingredients they need to avoid.
The legislation lists 14 food allergens that must be declared whenever they are used, at any level, in pre-packed foods, including alcoholic drinks.
The 14 ingredients are:
Some ingredients, derived from the foods listed above, are so highly processed that they are no longer capable of triggering an adverse reaction. To see a list of these foods, have a look in our Knowledgebase under Food derivatives exempt from mandatory allergen labelling.
After several years of intensive consultation and negotiation, the European Union Food Information for Consumers Regulation was finally published on 22 November 2011. It came into force 20 days later on 13 December, but businesses are allowed a transition period of three years to adapt to most requirements, with the nutrition declaration becoming mandatory after five years.
The Regulation is wide-ranging, covering general labelling such as ingredients listing and Country of Origin labelling; food safety labelling such as the declaration of allergenic ingredients; and nutrition labelling.
The main change in relation to food allergy is a new requirement for businesses to provide allergy information for foods sold without packaging. This covers foods sold loose (such as from a deli counter), in catering establishments or, sold pre-packed for direct sale (such as bread or cakes in a bakery or sandwiches from a sandwich bar). The way in which the information has to be provided is not defined and each country can provide guidance and advice to businesses on how such information could be provided.
Example, casein must have a reference to milk and tofu has to reference soya.
The food allergen labelling provisions for pre-packed foods are broadly similar to the legislation already in existence, but there are new requirements regarding the presentation of this information. As before, 14 allergenic ingredients have to be declared in the ingredients list. Under the new Regulation, this information now has to be emphasised (for example, capital letters) and must make reference to the allergenic food as set out in Annex II to the Regulation.
For foods without an ingredients list, the allergenic ingredient should be declared using the phrase ‘Contains X’. This is not required where the name of the food clearly refers to the allergen from Annex II. There will not be any need to include the statement, ‘Contains eggs’ on a box of eggs.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is leading on the implementation of the new Regulations. An informal, non-statutory "Guide to compliance" for industry and a consultation document on the Regulations were both published in November 2012. The consultation is took place between November 2012 and January 2013.
The guidance document can be downloaded here from the DEFRA website.
Click here to read Questions and Answers on the application of the Regulation (EU) N° 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, a useful document on the subject produced by the EU.
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