FSA and FDF publish updated food allergen labelling guidance

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

The FSA and FDF have published updated guidelines for allergen labelling. Image: Getty, Tang Ming Tung
The FSA and FDF have published updated guidelines for allergen labelling. Image: Getty, Tang Ming Tung

Related tags allergens

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published new food allergen labelling and information technical guidance, as the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) reveals its own set of allergen labelling guidelines supporting the agency’s update.

This best practice technical guidance​ aims to support food businesses when applying allergen labelling, whilst helping to keep consumers safe. It also recommends a number of changes in relation to how food businesses use precautionary allergen labelling:

  • Only apply a PAL if there is an unavoidable risk of allergen cross-contamination which cannot be sufficiently controlled by segregation and cleaning.
  • Specify which of the 14 major allergens the PAL refers to – for example, using ‘may contain peanuts’ rather than a generic ‘may contain nuts’ statement.
  • Use PAL statements in combination with a ‘vegan’ label where a risk of cross-contamination with an allergen has been identified. A ‘vegan’ label communicates different information to a ‘free-from’ claim, which is food safety information aimed at different consumer groups.

When to use PAL

The guidance goes into further detail about why business should not use a PAL statement alongside a free-from statement and provides updated information on best practice for the use of no gluten containing ingredient statements for food businesses in the non-prepacked food sector. 

Natasha Smith – deputy director of policy at the FSA – noted that while the use of PAL is voluntary, it is important that it should be as accurate and helpful to consumers as possible when it is applied.

“The updates to this guidance will help businesses to effectively manage allergens, and ensure those living with food allergies and intolerances get the greatest possible benefit from PAL,”​ she continued.

“The guidance also helps make clear the distinction between a ‘vegan’ claim, and a ‘free from’ claim. A ‘free-from’ allergen claim should guarantee that the specified allergen is absent and to use it a food business must have implemented strict controls to eliminate any risk of cross-contamination.  

“A vegan claim is not about food safety, and our new guidance highlights that a PAL statement for any or all of molluscs, eggs, fish, milk and crustacea (foods that are both regulated allergens and animal products) can be used to communicate a risk of their unintended presence, where this has been identified by a food business’ risk assessment.”

FDF guidance

Today also saw the publication of the FDF Guidance on Change Management of Allergen Information​, with support from the FSA, to help food and drink businesses understand the actions they should consider when managing changes that impact allergen labelling on pre-packed goods.

It includes best practice considerations such as additional consumer communications and the importance of information sharing across the whole supply chain, with guidance for when allergen profile changes result from an intentional or unintentional change.

FSA chair Susan Jebb OBE welcomed the new guidance, which complemented the FSA’s own updated advice for food and drink businesses.  

“Food hypersensitivity affects more than two million people across the UK and people with food hypersensitivity need good information about the food they buy to keep themselves safe,”​ said Jebb. “It’s therefore vital that businesses are able to apply allergen labels accurately and consistently.

Getting labelling right

“Helping businesses to get their labelling right is an important part of this work and I encourage businesses to use this guidance as part of their allergen management processes.”

Simon Williams, Anaphylaxis UK chief executive, said the new described the new guidance as a significant step forward in ensuring the safety of individuals with allergies, particularly commending its emphasis on using only essential allergenic ingredients and the promotion of clear, immediate communication about any changes in allergen information.

“The importance it places on information sharing across the entire supply chain ensures that all parties involved in food production are aware of any changes in allergen information,”​ Williams added. “This is a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to ensure the wellbeing of people with allergies.”

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