Allergies or Intolerance – Your Customers don’t have a Choice…
The chances are we all know somebody with either an allergy or food intolerance.
As of last week “Natasha’s Law” came into effect, creating the requirement for food businesses to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged foods.
The government will introduce legislation by the end of summer 2019 mandating full ingredients labelling for foods prepacked for direct sale, and the new laws will come into force by summer 2021 – giving businesses time to adapt to the change.
The introduction of ‘Natasha’s Law’ follows a consultation in January proposing four options, including full ingredient list labelling; allergen-only labelling; ‘ask the staff’ labels on products; and promoting best practice to businesses.
Food allergies happen when the immune system – the body’s defence against infection – mistakenly treats proteins found in food as a threat.
As a result, a number of chemicals are released. It’s these chemicals that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Almost any food can cause an allergic reaction, but there are certain foods that are responsible for most food allergies.
Important differences between a food allergy and a food intolerance include:
• the symptoms of a food intolerance usually occur several hours after eating the food
• you need to eat a larger amount of food to trigger an intolerance than an allergy
• a food intolerance is never life threatening, unlike an allergy
Food hypersensitivity is where people adversely react when eating certain foods and is divided into food allergy and non-allergic food hypersensitivity (food intolerance).
Most food allergies affect younger children under the age of three. It’s estimated around 1 in every 14 children of this age has at least one food allergy. (Source; NHS)
What’s the Size of the Challenge Today?
In the UK, it is estimated that 1-2% of adults have a food allergy.
This equates to around 2 million people living in the UK with a food allergy, but this figure does not include those with food intolerances.
In addition, it is estimated that 1 in 100 people have coeliac disease, an auto-immune condition which causes damage to the gut lining when gluten is present in food.
An allergic reaction can be produced by a tiny amount of a food ingredient that a person is sensitive to, for example a teaspoon of milk powder, a fragment of peanut or just one or two sesame seeds. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild symptoms such as itching around the mouth and rashes; and can progress to more severe symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, wheezing and on occasion anaphylaxis (shock).
Around ten people in the UK die from allergic reactions to food every year.
There is no cure for food allergies and intolerances. The only way to manage the condition is to avoid food that makes the person ill. Therefore, it is very important that consumers are provided with accurate information about allergenic ingredients in products to allow them to make safe food choices.
Continuing fatalities and effects on public health have raised the issue of whether the current regulatory framework for the provision of allergen information for PPDS foods is sufficient to give consumers the information they need to make safe food choices.
The Law Today;
In 2011 the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FIC) introduced new rules for Food Business Operators relating to the labelling and provision of allergen information. Food Business Operators are under a duty to ensure that all mandatory food allergen information must be accurate, available and easily accessible to the consumer.
In the UK, in recognition of the wide variety of out-of-home eating establishments and following consultation with stakeholders including business and patient groups, FIR introduced a flexible approach for allergen information for non-prepacked foods, including PPDS food, to be made available by any means the food business chooses, including orally by a member of staff.
Where the Food Business Operator chooses not to provide food allergen ingredients information on a menu, for example, there must be an indication to speak to a member of staff either on a label attached to the food itself or on a notice, menu, ticket or label that is readily discernible to the customer where the customer chooses the food.
Enforcements by Local Authority.
Enforcement of these regulations is undertaken by food enforcement officers within Local Authorities. Person(s) found guilty of an FIR offence may be liable to unlimited fines (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and criminal sanctions. Breaches under FIR regarding allergens may also result in offences under the Food Safety Act 1990 (England, Wales and Scotland) or the Food Safety (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 which can result in fines or imprisonment.
How do you recognise these?
Current allergen information provision;
Prepacked Foods= Food which is prepacked, for example a ready meal sold in a supermarket, must be clearly labelled with all ingredients and allergenic ingredients from the list of 14 substances or products causing allergies or intolerances.
Allergenic ingredients must stand out from other ingredients, for example by being in bold text.
What are PPDS foods?
As FIC does not provide a specific definition of PPDS, they expect businesses and Local Authorities to follow the interpretation set out in FSA’s technical guidance on allergen labelling provided below.
“Prepacked foods for direct sale: This applies to foods that have been packed on the same premises from which they are being sold. Foods prepacked for direct sale are treated in the same way as non-prepacked foods in EU FIC’s labelling provisions. For a product to be considered ‘prepacked for direct sale’ one or more of the following can apply:
It is expected that the customer is able to speak with the person who made or packed the product to ask about ingredients.
• Foods that could fall under this category could include meat pies made on site and sandwiches made and sold from the premises in which they are made.
To encourage this practice, FSA launched the #EasytoAsk campaign supported by allergy patient groups to remind food businesses to ask customers about dietary needs and empower young people in particular, to ask about allergens when eating out.
This means that you must:
• provide allergen information to the consumer for both pre-packed and non-prepacked food or drink handle and manage food allergens adequately
• You also need to make sure that your staff is trained about allergens.
The 14 allergens
You need to tell your customers if any food products you sell or provide contain any of the main 14 allergens as an ingredient.
The 14 allergens are:
2. cereals containing gluten – including wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan), rye, barley and oats
3. crustaceans – such as prawns, crabs and lobsters
8. molluscs – such as mussels and oysters
10. tree nuts – including almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts
12. sesame seeds
14. sulphur dioxide & sulphites (if they are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million)
In order to meet the needs of people with allergies AND remain within the EU Law- Food Business Operator’s (FBO’s) need to ensure they have the correct Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) in place to ensure a consistent legal approach.
Gov.uk – July 2019.
Consultation on amending allergen information provisions contained within domestic food information legislation for food prepacked for direct sale.
DEFRA – FSA – January 2019.
Thanks to the following ;
FATC – Food Allery Aware
Contact Caroline Benjamin- 07732 637292
Hospitality Learning Network Course for Allergen Training.
Contact Peter Jarrett.
Allergen Accreditation Ltd – for accreditation support and audits.
Contact Julian Edwards
For more information and assistance, please call me for an informal discussion about what you may need to ensure you are compliant.
Alison at Clifton Foodservice Consultants Ltd.
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