Food Law News - UK - 2006


FSA Consultation, 4 July 2006

LABELLING - Draft voluntary guidance on the provision of allergen information for foods that are not prepacked

This consultation sets out voluntary best practice guidance that can help make establishments selling or providing non-prepacked foods to consumers, aware of the potential problems associated with food allergy and intolerance. Responses are requested by: 27 September 2006

Consultation details

Current food labelling rules require the indication of specified allergenic ingredients for foods which have been prepacked. However, foods which are sold non-prepacked (loose) or prepacked for direct sale are not required to give this information. Customers therefore have to rely on information they receive directly from the person selling the food.

This document sets out voluntary best practice guidance that can help make establishments selling or providing non-prepacked foods to consumers, aware of the potential problems associated with food allergy and intolerance. It also provides advice to them on how they can provide sufficient and accurate information to allergic customers should they be asked. This voluntary guidance has been developed by the Food Standards Agency with the help of a multi-stakeholder drafting group.

I am therefore writing to invite your comments on the draft voluntary guidance on the provision of allergen information for foods that are not Prepacked, and the Partial Regulatory Impact Assessment, which covers the UK . A similar consultation is being carried out in Scotland .

There is evidence from clinical records to suggest that foods sold not prepacked may pose a greater risk to food-allergic consumers than prepacked foods, in terms of the number of fatal or near fatal allergic reactions that occur. It is therefore important for businesses that sell or provide foods in these ways to be aware about food allergy and food intolerance and to take it seriously. This is because if someone eats a food to which they are allergic or intolerant, even the smallest amount can make them ill and in the case of a food allergy, they could even die.

During consultation on the Food Labelling (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2004, which implement amongst other requirements, the statutory allergen labelling rules for foods sold prepacked, initial views were sought on the provision of allergen information for foods sold ‘prepacked for direct sale' and non-prepacked. More than half of all respondents were in favour of extending allergen information to cover these areas.

A series of stakeholder meetings were held, which were attended by representatives from the catering sector, food industry, consumer bodies and enforcement. This demonstrated that a significant amount of common ground between all the stakeholders. Having carefully considered the views expressed at these meetings, it was agreed that voluntary best practice guidance should be developed and a multi-stakeholder drafting group was formed to take this forward.

The main drive of this group has been to ensure that the voluntary guidance is adaptable to any size of business, is easy to read and conveys the key messages in relation to food allergy and intolerance. The voluntary guidance also recognises that different sized businesses have different levels of resource to spend on establishing specific processes or management systems to ensure that the information they provide to the consumer is accurate.

The voluntary guidance has therefore been tiered in order to help businesses find the appropriate advice for their individual circumstances. There is a summary, which conveys the minimum best practice advice which could stand on its own and could therefore be directed to the smallest businesses.

The main body of the guidance is in three parts. Part 1 provides a very short introduction to food allergy and intolerance, together with an explanation of why the guidance is needed, who it is aimed at and what it is seeking to do. Part 2 provides common advice for all businesses selling food that is not prepacked, covering three key messages (effective communication, basic training and ensuring that ingredient information is accessible). Part 2 also incorporates a summary of the key messages which could be usefully pulled out and placed on a wall or used for in-house training. Part 3 provides some worked examples for a number of different types of food businesses.

Finally, there is a further standalone section covering the background, which provides more detail on food allergy and food intolerance and the background on the legislative context and definitions, for those businesses that want such information.

The voluntary guidance is relevant to all situations in which foods are being sold non-prepacked (loose) or prepacked for direct sale, whether in catering establishments or through retail outlets. It is also relevant to businesses providing food in institutional catering operations, such as schools, hospitals, prisons, as well as where food is provided at corporate events, or conferences. It will also be a helpful guidance tool for enforcement authorities when advising these types of business of all sizes. It should be noted that it is proposed that the guidance be voluntary, and therefore compliance with the guidance would not be a basis for any enforcement action.

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