Yet more burdensome regulation from the EU

By Clare Cheney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cheese, Eu

Clare Cheney, director general, Provision Trade Federation,
Clare Cheney, director general, Provision Trade Federation,
From December 2014, under new EU labelling rules, allergens will have to be highlighted in the ingredients lists on food labels rather than in a separate box, which is common practice in the UK, but will no longer be permitted. For example, under the new regulations where cheese is an ingredient, this must be followed by the word ‘milk’, in bold.

Looking at an actual label for fish pie in a creamy cheese sauce with mashed potato and parsley crumb, I saw there were five different dairy ingredients: milk, Cheddar cheese, butter, cream and Gruyere cheese. Following the letter of the law, such labels will in future have to have the word ‘milk’ in brackets after the last four items in this list.

Wade through the list

The same dish also contains cod, smoked haddock, salmon and prawns, and also other ingredients containing the allergens wheat and gluten. The first four items will each have to be followed by the words (fish) or (shellfish). Currently, the label in my example has a prominent coloured allergen box with six words naming the categories of allergen present. This is so much easier to use and saves having to wade through the list of ingredients.

In recent years there have been regular occasions when products were withdrawn from sale, creating substantial food waste, when manufacturers had inadvertently omitted to indicate the presence of an allergen on the label. Now that a particular allergen, milk or fish in the above example, will have to be mentioned several times, rather than just once, would a product withdrawal have to take place if milk or fish is not mentioned after one of the dairy or fish ingredients, regardless of the fact that it is mentioned after the others?

Ridiculous

That would be quite ridiculous, but a pedant might say that a person who is allergic to milk might eat the mashed potato alone, not realising that it, or the crumb topping, contained dairy ingredients. Under the current system, a named allergen in the separate box could be taken to apply to the whole product regardless of whether it is restricted to a discrete part such as a crust or pastry and people with that allergy would avoid eating any part of the composite food.

The new rules, particularly when applied to a recipe dish with a large number of ingredients, are burdensome for the manufacturer and do not make the label any easier for the consumer to use.

This is just another example of overzealous EU rules hammered out by people who have little concept either of practicability of application by manufacturers or value to actual allergic consumers.

Related topics: Legal, Dairy

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8 comments

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Facts

Posted by Antonio L. Amador,

I've just prepared some guidelines for our company and it is not going to be that difficult, you just need to sit and read the whole lot to find what apply to your business and what your options are (i.e. specifications-commercial documents can be used to pass the mandatory information in certain businesses as far as you include a minimum info in the package, art 8.7).
Also when it comes to the debate about EU Regs everybody seems to forget that we also sit on the table where this legislation is prepared. Blaming some sort of 'ghostly evil' called Europe is scaremongering and simplistic. UK has also its saying, so make sure we get competent people to represent us and not the ones who are after just a fat salary.

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EU regulators

Posted by Andre Zimmermann,

Common sense is not common with bureaucrats. Therefore, they should not be allowed to hide behind anonymous rules but should take responsibility in the form that every bureaucrat who approved any new rule or change thereto, should be mentioned by name and nationality.

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It's not all bad!!!

Posted by Dean,

I think their are some areas that need to be clarified further from this, for instance, you would be allowed to underneath the ingredients list state what allergens may be in the product, but then steer the consumer to the ingredients list. DEFRA only cover the allergens element to FIR, there are several other areas covered under the new regulation that people will also need to address than just their ingredients list. For distance selling, we believe it will help consumer confidence as the customer will be better informed about what they are buying.

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