New EU Allergen Regulation – Are You Compliant?

By Jocelyn Levy | 2nd November 2020 | 10 min read

On 13th December 2014, the 3-year transitional period to comply with the new EU Food Information Regulations (EU1169/2011) ended. And non-compliance could lead to prosecutions. This means all organisations selling food and drinks must now be listing and highlighting food allergens contained in the food they sell. This applies to schools too.

The new regulation changes the way allergen information appears on food labels, whether they’re pre packed, sold loose or packed to order. Additionally, it requires restaurants and cafes (including school cafeterias) to provide allergy information on non-pre-packed food. They can either display the information on menus, at service counters, or make it available on request.

BioStore FasTrak’s School Meal Management system allows school caterers to add product warnings & alerts to assist schools in meeting the new EU Regulations for food Allergens.

For parents and children affected by allergies, this is good news. The new rule makes allergen information clearer and more consistent, thus allowing them to feel confident about choosing a school meal. Unfortunately, for some schools, it also puts more pressure on their already ‘stretched’ catering team.

To save you time searching through 37 pages of technical guidelines for food allergen labelling and information requirements, here are some questions and answers to help you see what this could mean for schools.

It is important to note that the new regulation doesn’t require school caterers to list all the ingredients in the food they produce. They just need to document the allergenic ingredients contained in the food. However, the legislation requires the information to be accurate, consistent and verifiable if challenged.

What are the main changes in the new regulation?

The main changes affecting food sold loose or sold directly to the consumer by the suppliers packing the food are as follows:

  1. You must provide information if food you sell includes Allergenic ingredients – Under the new law, catering staff can’t claim ignorance about the presence of allergens in the food they serve, nor can they use generalised statements such as ‘All Food Could Contain Allergen.’If the food you serve at your school cafeteria has any of the 14 allergenic ingredients – you must inform students about them. You may do this by listing the allergen on the food labels, on the edge of the shelf where the food is displayed, or on the menu. You may also provide the allergen information verbally, but this has to be supported by a written document to be provided upon request.If you are not able to provide the information upfront and in writing, use clear signage to direct students as to where they can find the information. For example, you can use posters or chalkboards informing them to ask a member of staff.If your school provides pre-packed food (e.g. sandwiches, ready packed salad, or pasta) you must highlight allergenic ingredients on its label. You can use colour, font, or style (e.g. bold or Italic) to highlight allergenic ingredients.It is no longer permitted to use the phrase ‘Contains: (followed by a list of allergens)’ if allergens have already been listed within the ingredients, this is to ensure consistent presentation of allergen information across food products. You may still use voluntary statements that stress the risk of cross-contamination with allergens, for example ‘May contain nuts‘.
  2. You no longer need to declare if additives are present in the food.
  3. No exemptions – In the past, there were exemptions from the labelling requirements. For instance, food supplied between some businesses didn’t need labelling.In the new regulation, everyone in the supply chain must list mandatory information either on the food label or in commercial documents (such as delivery documents or invoices). This ensures that everyone further down the supply chain can meet the obligation of nutritional standards.
  4. Nutritional information now mandatory – This includes energy, fat, carbohydrates, protein and salt. Beforehand, suppliers were only required to provide nutritional information when they make any nutritional claim such as ‘low in fat’.This is now mandatory, even if you don’t make any nutritional claims. If you already provide nutritional information, you still need to change your labelling, as you need to present information differently.
  5. Minimum Font Size Set – The letter ‘x’ in the font you choose to write the mandatory information must be no less 1.2 mm in height.
  6. List of products requiring Country of origin extended – Previously, suppliers were only asked to provide country of origin for fresh fruits and vegetables, beef, fish, honey and olive oil. With the new rule, suppliers are now required to provide country of origin for pork, lamb, goat’s meat and poultry.

What are the 14 allergenic ingredients covered by the new regulation?

Be sure you know the allergens and their effects on sufferers. The following are the 14 main food allergens listed by the EU FIR 1169/2011:

  1. Gluten containing cereals
  2. Soya
  3. Crustaceans
  4. Eggs
  5. Molluscs
  6. Milk
  7. Fish
  8. Celery
  9. Peanuts*
  10. Mustard
  11. Lupin
  12. Sesame
  13. Nuts*
  14. Sulphur dioxide**

* Since peanuts are legumes (like beans, chickpeas and peas), they aren’t part of the nut family. Therefore, Allergen Labelling law considers peanuts as one of the 14 allergens that must be emphasised on food labels; and nuts (collectively – such as Almond, Brazils, Cashew nuts, Hazelnuts, Macadamia nut, Pecan nut, and Walnuts) as another. Other types of nuts not listed here don’t need to be listed under the new rule.

**At levels above 10mg/kg, or 10 mg/litre, expressed as SO2

What happens when you are found non-compliant?

Trading Standards is implementing the new regulations. Non-compliance is deemed a criminal offence and any organisation found guilty may face fines. Also, there is currently no maximum limit to fines imposed for non-compliance.

BioStore’s FasTrak Cashless Catering School Meal Management solution allows school caterers to add product warnings & alerts to assist schools in meeting the new EU Regulations for food allergens. Food product messages are presented to the cashier when students purchase their school lunch, which will allow staff to warn students of any allergens that they may be allergic to.Related links & news stories:

Food Standards Agency: Resources for allergen information
BBC: Food allergy laws enforced in restaurants and takeaways