Under the new legislation, which will come into effect on 1 October 2021, food packaged on-site before a customer selects or orders it will be required to have an ingredients list with the allergens emphasised on it.
Jamie Cartwright, partner and allergen specialist at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, questioned at what point a product ceased to be packed to order and became pre-packed – an issue the guidance sought to address, but did not solve in practical terms.
“Food prepared in advance of a lunch-time rush is considered pre-packed and subject to labelling. Food boxed or packed to a customer’s order is not,” said Cartwright. “Where a business is set up to provide both offerings (keeping food warm and ready under hot lamps), how will the kitchen know every time where that item is heading?”
The confusion that this would create could force businesses to choose one of two options: label everything – even where prepared and packaged to order – or prepare no items in advance.
“Either option represents a significant change to current operational practices,” Cartwright added.
The FSA is now consulting on updates to its existing technical guidance to reflect the legislative changes. These updates are designed to help businesses and enforcement authorities understand the new requirements, as well as support businesses as they work towards implementing them next year.
Emily Miles, chief executive at the FSA, said: “Consistent and accurate labelling can be life-saving for those living with a food allergy or hypersensitivity.
“This short consultation on updates to our Technical Guidance on food allergen labelling is an important next step in the process to ensure that food businesses and enforcement authorities are ready for October 2021.”