The Food Information for Consumers Regulation names 14 substances or products which you must emphasise in ingredients lists. This is because of 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 precautionary allergen labelling when you have determined the risk of allergen cross-contamination is real and cannot remove it.
The rules 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
Non-prepacked or loose foods can include any foods which are loose loose 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.
The rules for declaring allergens in these foods are:
- When you sell food to consumers or caterers without packaging, or, providing information about allergenic ingredients is mandatory. This also applies where foods are packed on the sales premises at the consumer’s request or prepacked for direct sale.
- You must provide allergen information for non-prepacked foods in written or oral formats. If you aren’t going to provide this in an upfront written format, you should use clear signposting to where consumers can find this information.
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 you can obtain allergen information a member of staff
- if you provide information on allergenic ingredients 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)