Major changes made on the provision of food information

The new EU Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC) came into force on December 13th, 2014. It brought about a major change to the way food information must be provided in shops and restaurants.

Among the many changes include new rules about highlighting allergens in the list of ingredients on pre-packed foods. The new information rules don’t only apply to packaged foods. Food business operators who provide food sold loose, such as meals served in restaurants, schools, airlines etc also need to accurately declare which allergenic ingredients are present in the foods they sell. Restaurants and other catering outlets can chose how they inform customers about the allergens in the food/meals they sell. They can do this with signage, recipe cards or verbally.

"All sectors of the food industry will be affected by the changes," notes Simon Flanagan, Food Safety Consultant at RSSL, who has worked with some of the big name companies in the food service sector to help them prepare. "The rules around allergens are especially challenging and some of the label statements on pre-packed foods that we are familiar with will no longer be permitted. Any retailers, caterers, food suppliers and manufacturers that have not made the required changes should seek help urgently."

In addition to the new requirements on labelling in restaurants and on foods sold loose, there have also been changes for pre-packaged foods. "The "Contains or Allergy Advice Box" is no longer allowed and instead, allergens need 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, but we have worked with many of our food manufacturing clients to help them prepare for the changes."

Allergen labelling rules are not the only changes that have been implemented. The new law combined 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 have altered how nutritional information should 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 has also been addressed.

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