Labelling food products
Food allergen labelling
The Food Information for Consumers Regulation names 14 substances or products which you must emphasise in ingredients lists. This is because these substances can cause allergic or intolerance responses. The rules apply to anything made from the 14 allergens (except in the case of sulphur dioxide and sulphites).
The 14 allergens are:
- cereals containing gluten (namely: wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut or their hybridised strains)
- tree nuts (namely: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia nuts)
- sesame seeds
- sulphur dioxide and sulphites when the concentration of total sulphur dioxide in the whole prepared food is above 10mg/kg or 10mg/litre
You must include and emphasise the names of any of the above allergens in the ingredients list. You can do this by using bold text or by making the allergen stand out from the other ingredients in some way.
If there is no ingredients list, you should include a 'contains...' statement. You don't need to include additional information if you have referred to the allergen in the name of the food.
If you want to include an allergy advice box, you can refer the consumers to the ingredients list, but you must not repeat the allergens.
If an allergen is not intentionally used, but there is a risk of cross-contamination (eg if the product is made in a factory that processes peanuts), you may include a 'may contain...' statement. However this is not a legal requirement.
You should only use a 'may contain...' statement - also known as precautionary allergen labelling or PAL - when you have determined the risk of allergen cross-contamination is real and you cannot remove it. Read more about this in the FSA's food allergen labelling and information requirements technical guidance.
The rules on declaring allergens do not apply to some allergen derivatives, such as wheat-based glucose syrups and fully refined soybean oil. Otherwise, there are no exemptions.
There are specific laws about claims that a food is 'gluten-free' or 'very low gluten'. Gluten-free foods can have no more than 20ppm gluten.
You may label foods containing ingredients that have been processed to reduce their gluten content as 'very low gluten' when they contain no more than 100ppm gluten.
Allergen information on loose foods
Loose foods include everything that is not prepacked, for example from a delicatessen counter, fresh pizza, fish, salad bars and bread in bakery shops. In a catering environment, this applies to ready-to-eat foods such as meals in a restaurant, café or takeaway.
Rules for declaring allergens in loose foods:
- You must provide information about the allergens used in these foods.
- You must make allergen information available in writing or by speaking to staff. If you are not providing this information in writing, clearly signpost to where consumers can find this information.
- You can use logos or symbols when accompanied by words and numbers on menus
For loose foods allergen information has to be:
- easily accessible to all consumers
- accurate, consistent and verifiable
Allergen information on Prepacked for Direct Sale (PPDS) food
The way food businesses must provide allergen labelling information for PPDS food has changed. PPDS food is considered food that has been packed on the same premises from which they are being sold. Examples of PPDS food include meat pies made on site and sandwiches made and sold from the premises in which they are made.
PPDS food now must have a label with a full ingredients list with allergenic ingredients emphasised within it.
According to the new rules, PPDS food will have to clearly display the following information on the packaging:
- name of the food
- full ingredients list
- allergenic ingredients emphasised (for example in bold, italics or a different colour)
For more information, see the FSA's introduction to allergen labelling changes (PPDS).