Thought for Food – Allergen Labelling and Food Information Regulations

May 22, 2014

The European Regulation on Food Information for Consumers (FIC Regulation) establishes the general principles, requirements and responsibilities governing food information and in particular food labelling. One of the general objectives of the FIC Regulation is to ensure a high level of protection of consumers’ health and interests by providing a basis for consumers to make informed choices and to make safe use of food with particular regard to health, economic, environmental, social and ethical considerations.

The FIC Regulation will apply to food business operators at all stages of the food chain, where the activities concern the provision of food information to consumers. It applies to all foods intended for the final consumer, including food delivered by mass caterers and foods intended for supply to mass caterers. Mass caterer means any establishment (including a vehicle or a fixed or mobile stall), such as restaurants, canteens, schools, hospitals and catering enterprises in which in the course of business food is prepared ready for consumption by the final consumer.

The Food Information Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 (FIR 2013) have been published in draft format and covers the following:

• Mandatory Nutrition Declaration and voluntary front of pack nutrition labelling;

• Nutrition labelling of alcoholic drinks;

• Provision of information for non-pre-packed foods;

• Clarity of food labels in minimum font size;

• Labelling of vegetable oil including palm oil;

• Labelling of engineered nano materials;

• Quantity labelling;

• Country of origin labelling;

• Labelling of information on allergenic Ingredients.

The main changes within the draft FIR 2013 include:

• Minimum font size for mandatory information taking account of the labelling sizes;

• For pre-packed foods, allergens information must be highlighted in the ingredients list;

• For non-pre-packed foods (including catering) allergen information must be made available to consumers;

• Country of origin and place of providence information will be required for fresh and frozen meat;

• Added water over 5% must be declared for certain meat and fishery products;

• Date of freezing required for frozen meat, frozen meat preparations and frozen unprocessed fishery products;

• Changes from “Group 2” nutrition labelling in the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 (FIR) to the mandatory nutrition declaration in the EU FIC Regulation;

• In relation to fibre this moves from the mandatory list in FLR to optional list in FIC;

• Cholesterol was in the supplementary list in FLR, but is not permitted in FIC;

• Salt – this must be declared rather than sodium;

• The order in which the nutrition declaration must be given is: energy; fat; saturates; carbohydrate; sugar; protein and salt.

The majority of the food provisions of the Food Information Regulations come into operation on 13 December 2014. The provisions in relation to mandatory nutrition declaration to not take effect until 13 December 2016.

Technical Guidance

The Foods Standard Agency has launched a public consultation in relation to technical guidance regarding the new Food allergen labelling and information rules. This is a UK wide consultation which has two phases:-

• Phase 1 is from 15 May to 5 June. It is proposed that after Phase 1 a revised version of the guidance will be published for further comments;

• Phase 2 is due to run from 24 June to 15 July with a revised version incorporating components from Phase 1 being published for further comment.

It is anticipated the final guidance will be published towards the end of July 2014.

Please note: The content of this article is for information purposes only and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor before any action is taken.
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