The horse meat scandal & food allergen labelling: The bigger picture

The horse meat scandal & food allergen labelling: The bigger picture

  • 20 July 2015
  • News


In light of the recent horse meat scandal, whereby various processed meat products from multiple companies have been found to contain up to 100% horse meat instead of the advertised beef mince, we were contacted by a number of our members. They expressed their concern as to whether they can actually trust what is in the food they eat and whether they may, unbeknown to them, be exposed to their problem allergen.

The Anaphylaxis Campaign went in search of clarification on this issue and contacted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as part of this. They made this comment:

‘There is a legal obligation for food business operators to ensure that information provided on the label is accurate. This includes information on the 14 allergenic ingredients and the suitability of a product for someone with a particular allergy. The FSA works closely with local authorities to identify potential issues with food allergy labelling, taking action where necessary and alerting consumers to the problems. If you have a concern about the allergy labelling on a product you are advised to contact your Local Authority.’

With this in mind, the official advice from both the Anaphylaxis Campaign and FSA is that if you have a reaction to something where you should not have reacted, then if possible please keep a sample of the food consumed in the freezer and contact your local authority to have it tested. The same is true if you have requested a meal to be specifically free of an allergen and experience an allergic reaction. Your local authority should investigate the incident for you and are contactable here:

The FSA also made these further comments:

  • The FSA has an active programme of sampling where food samples are taken by the local authorities and tested for the undeclared presence of food allergens in prepacked and non-prepacked foods. The intelligence gathered from these surveys (as well as other sampling programmes) is used to ascertain whether there is a larger issue which warrants further investigation and to ensure that all necessary actions are taken to resolve the problem and protect consumer health.
  • For prepacked foods, any of the 14 specified allergenic foods that are used as deliberate ingredients need to be clearly declared within the ingredients list. This is a mandatory requirement under the food allergen legislation and applies to all prepacked foods manufactured in the European Union. Therefore, if you are allergic to a particular food, always check the ingredients list to ensure that the food product does not contain the food you are allergic to.
  • For non-prepacked food the provision of allergen information is currently provided on a voluntary basis; however this is set to change with the introduction of the Food Information for Consumers Regulation in December 2014.
  • Almost three quarters of food allergic reactions happen when people eat out. Even though similar meals are sold in many shops, supermarkets and restaurants, different recipes and ingredients can be used to make these dishes. It is vital that if you have a food allergy, you should always ask about the ingredients used in a dish, when eating outside of the home. Even if you have eaten a particular dish in one restaurant, don’t assume it will have the same ingredients the next time or in a different restaurant