Consultation shows support for mandatory allergen labelling

Published on 8th May, 2019

MCA Notes article posted on 8th May 2019

Food allergen picture.jpg

A consultation on how best to display allergen information on pre-packaged food has shown 73% of respondents favour mandatory full-ingredient labelling.

The results of the consultation, which was launched earlier this year, are revealed in a paper by the Food Standards Agency, ahead of an extraordinary meeting of the FSA board today to decide on the advice it will give MPs.

The FSA also updated on its planned actions over the next few months to restore confidence of allergen sufferers when eating out. This will include a new “FSA-led reporting mechanism to gather data on allergic reactions caused by food served in catering establishments”. The report said this would create new lines of intelligence that more quickly identify businesses serving unsafe food and allowing the FSA to request urgent inspections by local authorities.

The FSA also plans to introduce new guidance for Trading Standards and Environmental Health officers based on industry best practice. This will be trialled in the autumn with the aim of rolling it out further next year.

The report stresses: “We want the regulatory system to help businesses comply and stop them getting it wrong. If they do fail, there must be a proportionate and persuasive response in place.”

The results of the consultation on allergen labelling showed that while businesses favoured the option of ‘ask the labelling with supported information in writing, there was “much more limited support” from other stakeholders, with concerns include young consumers potentially being too shy to ask for information.

Alternatively, while the full-ingredient labelling option had broad support, it was opposed by the majority of businesses, who cited concerns over the ability to access, frequently update and clearly communicate accurate ingredient information down the supply chain to a label.

Responding to the report, UKHospitality said it was important to distinguish between food made in store and then packaged as opposed to that which was prepared in a factory.

A spokesperson said: “It is important that customers with any allergies or hypersensitivity feel comfortable talking to staff members in our venues. We want customers to feel empowered to talk to team members and confident that the information they receive is accurate and useful. That is why UKH has recommended to the Government that any new measures for pre-packed foods for direct sale should incorporate FSA-approved, consistent labelling and to differentiate between foods made in a catering environment and those made in a factory we believe that the sticker should say “Made in-house, ask about allergens.” This would alert customers to ask for allergen information, which would, under this option be available in writing. This would be alongside continued staff training and industry-led action. We believe this is the best and safest way to support those customers will allergies or hypersensitivity to ingredients.”