Major Changes Ahead

Food manufacturers, food suppliers, food retailers, restaurants and cafes have just over a year to prepare for major changes to food labelling regulations. The new EU Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC) will come into force on December 13th, 2014.

Among the many changes that will be enforced are new rules on highlighting allergens in the list of ingredients. The new rules won't only apply to packaged foods. Food business operators who provide food sold loose, such as meals served in restaurants, schools, airlines etc will also need to accurately declare which deliberately added allergenic ingredients have been used in their preparation. Retailers and restaurants will have to find a way to inform customers about the allergens in the food/meals they sell.

"All sectors of the food industry will be affected by the changes," notes Simon Flanagan, Food Safety Consultant at RSSL, which is already working with some of the big names in the food service sector to help them prepare. "The rules around allergens are especially challenging and some of the label statements that we are familiar with will no longer be permitted. It is vital that retailers, caterers, food suppliers and manufacturers put in the effort now to be sure that they are ready for the changes."

In addition to the new requirements on labelling in restaurants and on foods sold loose, there are also changes for pre-packaged foods. "The "Contains or Allergy advice box" will not be allowed and instead, allergens will have to be highlighted on the label," notes Barbara Hirst of RSSL. "Cereals need to be labelled as the source of gluten, rather than just stating the word gluten” Customers may take some time to get used to the changes."

Allergen labelling rules are not the only changes that are coming. The new law combines two Directives into one: 2000/13/EC - labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs; and 90/496/EEC - nutrition labelling for foodstuffs. Therefore, the new rules will also alter how nutritional information is to be given on processed foods, and how to handle the origin labelling of fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry. The font size on labels is also being addressed.

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