The proposals followed an enquiry into allergen labelling launched in the wake of the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse in 2016, who had eaten a sandwich from Pret A Manger.
FSA chair Heather Hancock said: “Food allergies and intolerance affects millions of people and its impact can be as big or bigger than almost all other foodborne diseases.
“That is why we have concluded that more extensive food labelling is the right outcome to provide greater protection for consumers but introduced in a way that we can be confident will work.”
The guidance is likely to attract strong opposition. Only 13% of businesses said they preferred listing ingredients as the best course of action, according to the FSA’s own review into allergen labelling.
In the review, the final version of which was published last week, concerns were raised around the ability to access, frequently update and clearly communicate consistently accurate ingredients information down the supply chain to a label.
Increased risk of mislabelled products
The industry also recognised the possibility of an increased risk of mislabelled products, noting the continued steady stream of mislabelling incidents involving prepacked food despite a more sophisticated supply chain.
“Public sector bodies identified that introducing a change of this scale will require significant additional work, including to both educate and enforce new regulations, which is currently unfunded,” said the FSA’s report.
“They confirmed that successful implementation and long-term effectiveness will depend on having the capability to enforce the legislation.
“The Impact Assessment (IA) identified costs of £8.62m to implement this option, but further research since the IA was compiled, in particular regarding enforcement costs and costs to industry, suggest this is likely to be a significant underestimate.”
‘Ask the staff’ labels
Other proposals made by the FSA included promoting best practice measures, mandating ‘ask the staff’ labels with supporting written information and mandating that the name of the food and the 14 main allergens were emphasised.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will have the final say on whether or not to introduce the new rules.
Label design software developer NiceLabel welcomed the new guidance from the FSA and highlighted how correct labelling was critical for the food and beverage industry in ensuring compliance by manufacturers and safety for consumers.