The Food Information for Consumers Regulation names 14 substances or products which you must emphasise to within ingredients lists because of their potential to cause allergic or intolerance responses.
The 14 allergens, which also applies to products made from them (except in the case of sulphur dioxide and sulphites), 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 or Queensland 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 present in the ingredients list. This can be done 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 the allergen is referred to 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 and precautionary allergen labelling should only be used following a thorough risk assessment when the risk of allergen cross-contamination is real and cannot be removed.
Some allergen derivatives have been exempted from the rules, such as wheat-based glucose syrups and fully refined soybean oil. Otherwise there are no exemptions.
Claims that a food is 'gluten-free' or 'very low gluten' are controlled by specific legislation. 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
Non-prepacked or loose foods can include any foods which are sold loose from a delicatessen counter, fresh pizza, fish, salad bars and bread sold in bakery shops. In a catering environment this would apply to ready-to-eat foods such as meals served in a restaurant, café or purchased from a takeaway.
The rules for declaring allergens in these foods are:
- where foods are offered to sale to the final consumer or to mass caterers without packaging, or where foods are packed on the sales premises at the consumer’s request or prepacked for direct sale, information about allergenic ingredients is mandatory and must be provided
- allergen information must be provided for non-prepacked foods in written or oral formats with clear signposting to where consumers can find this information, when it is not provided upfront in a written format
You must provide information on allergenic ingredients in one of the following formats:
- written up front (for example on a menu or menu board) without the customer having to ask for information
- sign-posted to say that allergen information can be obtained from a member of staff
- if information on allergenic ingredients is provided orally, this must be consistent and verifiable (ie you must have processes in place to capture information from recipes or ingredients lists from products bought in, and make this available to staff)