If you have a food allergy or intolerance, you’ll be well aware of the difficulties that can be caused by eating out. Many sufferers are likely to have experienced the frustration caused by a café, takeaway, or restaurant failing to provide ingredients lists for certain meals or products. This lack of information means that for some, eating out can be extremely troublesome, or off limits entirely.
However, this is about to change. As of the 13th December 2014, new food labelling regulations have been introduced, alongside changes to existing regulations. These changes are designed to make it easier for sufferers of allergies and intolerance to find foods they can safely eat. We’ve put together a guide explaining the new allergen labelling regulations, and what they mean for both food outlets and consumers.
What are the new allergen labelling regulations?
The newly introduced regulations expand on and broaden the range of food labelling rules already in place. The Food Information for Consumers Regulation (1169/2011) is perhaps bringing in the largest change. This states that food businesses must now give allergy information for food that is without packaging, something that was not previously specified.
Whereas a requirement to provide allergy information was already necessary for packaged food, this is the first regulation requiring fresh produce businesses to label food that is sold unpackaged. These rules apply to locations like bakeries, sandwich shops, or delis, where food is commonly sold without packaging, and ingredients lists are not commonly displayed. The new regulations also require that the relevant allergen information is clearly visible within the premises.
There are 14 allergens listed as the most common ingredients or processing aids causing food allergies and intolerances. Foods must be labelled if they contain any of these allergens:
1) Cereals containing gluten, such as spelt, rye, barley, oats, and their hybridised strains and products. This excludes –
- Wheat based glucose syrups (e.g. Dextrose)
-Wheat based malodextrins
-Barley based glucose syrups
-Cereals used for making distilled alcohol, including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin
2) Crustaceans and crustacean products, including lobster, prawns, crabs, and crayfish
4) Fish and fish products. This excludes –
- Fish gelatine that is used as a carrier for carotenoid or vitamins
- Isinglass or fish gelatine used in beer and wine production
5) Peanuts and peanut products
6) Soybeans and soybean products. This excludes -
- Refined soybean oil and fat
- Natural mixed tocopherols (E306), natural D-alpha tocopherols, natural D-alpha tocopherol acetate, and natural D-alpha tocopherol succinate sourced from soybeans
- Vegetable oil derived phytosterols and phytosterol esters from soybean sources
-Vegetable oil derived plant stanol esters sourced from soybeans
7) Milk and milk products (including lactose). This excludes –
-Whey used to make alcoholic distillates, including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin
8) Nuts, including almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, peanut, pecan, Brazil, pistachio and macadamia
9) Celery and celery products
10) Sesame seeds and sesame seed products
11) Molluscs, and mollusc products, including mussels, clams, oysters, squid, clams, scallops and snails
12) Mustard and mustard products
13) Sulphur Dioxide and sulphites at concentrates of more than 10mg/kg or 10mg/L. Sulphite is a preservative, and is commonly found in wine and dried fruits
14) Lupin and lupin products (from Lupin plants)
What do the new regulations mean for me?
If you suffer from a food intolerance or allergy, the new regulations for un-packaged foods should make eating out easier. Rather than having to ask whether a meal contains certain ingredients, those who need this information will simply need to look at the list displayed.
The expanded regulations will also serve to lessen the hassle allergy and intolerance sufferers experience when selecting pre-packaged foods. Previously, customers may have had to simply assume that certain foods were off limits, by looking at an often vague ingredients list. Potential problem foods may have occurred under ingredients, but not under an allergen list, something likely to be a source of confusion for many. The altered FSA regulations should work to reduce this grey area, meaning that customers will have a clearer idea of the foods they can avoid, and the foods they can enjoy.
Think you might have a food allergy or intolerance, but unsure of the foods triggering your discomfort? YorkTest’s Food&DrinkScan test analyses your reaction from up to 158 foods, giving you the information needed to start working around your problem foods.