NEW Allergen Warning Requirements
From November 2005 the following 12 allergens will have to be declared on food labelling. The allergens are:
- Cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut, or their hybridised strains)
- Nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew nut, pecan nut, Brazil nut, pistachio nut, macadamia nut, Queensland nut)
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at levels above 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/litre expressed as SO2
The new rules require foods containing these ingredients to make a clear reference to the allergen name when they are used in pre-packed foods.
Guidance notes on the Regulations are available on the Food Standards Agency website : https://www.food.gov.uk/
The new rules also remove the ‘25% rule’ which allowed a compound ingredient to be given in the ingredients list without details of its individual components provided it was less than 25% of the product. Now all compound ingredients must declare their individual components. Another change is that the category names ‘crystallised fruit’ and ‘vegetables’ may no longer be used without specifying their ingredients.
Products not complying with the new rules should not be sold from 25th November 2005, although products that were labelled before this date may be sold while stocks last.
Ingredients Exempt From Allergen Requirements
Not all ingredients that have to be indicated under the new rules will necessarily be allergenic in practice. In some cases, processing that the ingredient has undergone will remove the allergenic factor. In recognition of this, some ingredients have been temporarily exempted from the allergen labeling rules until November 2007. Guidance notes on this are available from the Food Standards Agency website.
Guidance On Allergen Control And Advisory Labelling
In addition to the above, the Food Standards Agency have published draft guidance on voluntary best practice advice to food producers and retailers on how to assess the risk of cross contamination of a food product with an allergen and then to decide whether advisory labelling would be appropriate. The draft guidance can be viewed on the Food Standards Agency website.
General Food Legislation
- The primary legislation which sets out requirements for food sold in the UK is the Food Safety Act 1990. This, together with ancillary legislation regulates the composition and labelling of foods, food safety and hygiene, and standards for trading and marketing of foods. Almost all the UK food legislation incorporates EU directives and regulations resulting in harmonised legislation throughout Europe for almost all foods.
- The Food Safety Act sets out 4 main offences:
- rendering food injurious to health
- selling or possessing for sale food that does not comply with food safety requirements
- selling food which is not of the “nature or substance or quality” demanded by the purchaser
- falsely describing, advertising or presenting food.
- The FSA has published a (lengthy) guide to UK food law which can be viewed at: https://www.food.gov.uk/the-website-of-the-food-standards-agency
In addition to the Food Safety Act, the General Product Safety Regulations apply to food and drink. More information can be found on our General Product Safety page.
The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 applies to food products. More information on the effect of this legislation is available on our Trading Law Overview page.
Food Labelling Regulations
The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 specify requirements for labelling, presentation and advertising of food, nutrition labelling and amendments to the regulations brought in additional requirements such as quantitative ingredients declaration (known as QUID). The main requirements of the labelling regulations cover:
- name of the food
- ingredients list
- indication of minimum durability (best before or use by date)
- conditions of storage or use
- name and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller
- country of origin
- instructions for use
- declaration of additives
Requirements are laid out which affect any nutrition claims made and a prescribed format for nutrition information is set out. Medicinal claims are prohibited.
Guidance notes are available from the Food Standards Agency in relation to the Food Labelling Regulations which can be accessed online.
The Food (Lot Marking) Regulations 1996 require each food product to be marked with a code identifying the batch in which it was produced in order to facilitate product recall.
Colours, Sweeteners And Miscellaneous Additives
Regulations cover the use of additives in food including colours, sweeteners and ‘miscellaneous additives’ such as preservatives and stabilisers. Permitted substances are listed and many are restricted as to the amounts that can be used. Flavourings are also controlled by regulations.
Regulations also exist which aim to limit contamination of foods with substances such as aflatoxins, arsenic, pesticides and heavy metals.
Packaging materials and products intended to come into contact with food must not transfer their constituents to food in quantities which could endanger human health or make the food otherwise unacceptable to consumers. Regulations also specify requirements for labelling materials and articles as suitable for food contact use and restrict the use of certain substances in the manufacture of food contact materials.
Product Specific Legislation
Specific legislation applies to the following product categories.
- bread and flour
- cocoa and chocolate products
- coffee and coffee products
- caseins and caseinates
- condensed and dried milk
- drinking milk
- erucic acid
- fish and fish products
- fruit juices and nectars
- infant formula and follow-on formula
- jam and similar products
- meat products and spreadable fish products
- natural mineral water, spring water and bottled drinking water
- quick-frozen foods
- slimming foods
- spreadable fats
- sugar and sugar products
- foods for infants and young children
- medical foods
- food supplements
- foods for particular nutritional uses
- irradiated foods
- genetically modified foods
- organic foods
- fresh fruit and vegetables
- olive oil
Please note: The information given is based on interpretation of current applicable legislation. Please note that only the courts can interpret statutory legislation with any authority.