ALLERGEN DECLARATIONS FOR NON-PREPACKED FOOD: DECEMBER 2014: INFORMATION UPDATE
From December 13th 2014, the requirement to declare food allergens on prepacked food is extended by EU law to include non-prepacked food. EU Member States are permitted to introduce national legislation to determine how this legal requirement is put into effect within their jurisdictions and the Department of Health has achieved this through S.I. No. 489 of 2014. In the absence of national legislation, EU labelling requirements set out in the Food Information for Consumers (FIC) Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 automatically apply.
Food sold in loose form or packed on the premises at the request of the consumer or packed for direct sale or supply to the final consumer or mass caterer is considered non-prepacked food. Declaring the use of food allergens in prepacked food is facilitated by labels that generally include a list of ingredients. However, it can be more complex for non-prepacked foods such as meals provided in restaurants or takeaways and foods sold in food stalls or delivered to the home. In Ireland, national legislation stipulates that food allergen information for non-prepacked food must, as a minimum, be provided in written format, but can also be provided verbally at any time. In certain circumstances, written food allergen information may need to be supplemented by verbal information, e.g. to assist people with vision impairment or other difficulties.
The legal requirements are set out below with suggested possible ways that food businesses can comply with the national legislation. To ensure clarity, the information should be read in conjunction with Statutory Instrument (S.I.) No. 489 of 2014.
People can be allergic or intolerant to many different foods or food ingredients. However, EU law stipulates that only the use of 14 specific food allergens in producing or preparing a food (including beverages) must be declared. The 14 food allergens are specified in the Food Information for Consumers (FIC) Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 and are included in below.
Type of Information Required
The type of food allergen information required for non-prepacked foods is the same as that required on prepacked foods. However, because a list of ingredients is not generally used for non-prepacked foods, the information provided must include the word “contains” followed by the specific allergens, e.g. contains wheat, barley, soya and egg.
Precautionary Food Allergen Declarations
Precautionary declarations such as “may contain…” or “prepared in a kitchen/premises that uses…” are voluntary declarations and do not satisfy the allergen information requirements set out in S.I. No. 489 of 2014 for non-prepacked foods.
Situations where Food Allergen Declaration is not required
A separate food allergen declaration is not required when the name of the food informs the consumer that it consists of or contains a food allergen. Examples include milk, butter, soya flour etc.
However, caution is advised as food names may only identify one or a few of the allergens contained in a food product but not all. For example, egg mayonnaise contains egg so there is no need to separately declare egg. However, it can also contain other food allergens such as mustard and this will require a separate declaration. Specific food allergen declarations are not required for foods sold by means of automatic vending machine or automated sales premises.
Food Businesses Affected
From December 13th 2014, all food businesses using or handling food allergens will be required to declare the use of food allergens in food products (including beverages) whether prepacked or non-prepacked. This will be a new legal requirement for some food businesses including restaurants, pubs, takeaways, contract caterers, food stalls (mobile and stationary) as well as businesses offering delivery services. Retail outlets such as shops and supermarkets selling prepacked food will have to extend their allergen declarations to their non-prepacked products. A variety of other businesses and institutions providing non-prepacked foods include childcare and healthcare facilities, detention centres as well as meals provided or delivered free of charge by charitable institutions or organisations.
Food Allergen Management
Food businesses must be aware of the food allergens they handle and ensure that they can track their use in various products destined for caterers or the final consumer. Food allergens should be an integral part of the food safety management system, particularly the purchasing, handling and storage of ingredients. Businesses producing and preparing food should adopt practices to minimise cross-contamination and ensure that food allergen declarations are accurate. Routine staff education and training should include a module on the identity and handling of the 14 food allergens and how to address consumer concerns.
How to Comply with National Measures
The way in which food businesses can declare food allergens will vary depending on the particular non-prepacked food and the type of food business in question. It is envisaged that there will be a number of ways in which a food business can comply with this requirement and so each business must examine the options available and determine which is most suitable to their situation. Food allergen information can be communicated verbally at any time. However, the minimum requirement set out in the national measures is that written food allergen information is provided to the consumer or mass caterer. The written information must be presented in at least the English language and be easily located and accessible. It must clearly identify the allergens contained in a food or beverage in legible hand written or printed format. For example;
a) Food or food ingredients destined for mass caterers: Food allergen information as it relates to food or food ingredients destined for mass caterers can be placed on labels directly or in documents associated with a product. Caterers should ensure that they are in possession of such information for each food or food ingredient they purchase.
b) Restaurants/Takeaways: Restaurants and takeaways are facilities where the consumer makes a purchase of prepared food on-site and consumes the food on- or off-site. These can be stand-alone businesses or form part of other food businesses such as pubs, hotels and B&Bs. Written food allergen information can be placed on each menu or alternatively can be provided centrally in one or a number of conspicuous locations on the premises in hard copy or electronic format. Where the location of allergen information is not conspicuous, it must be clearly signposted, e.g. on the menu or other written material available on the premises so that consumers can locate and access it easily. The precise manner in which the written allergen information is presented can vary, but it must be legible and easily understood by the consumer. It is important that food businesses include food allergen information on minor components such as sauces and condiments as well as beverages such as wine, beer or cider (by the glass) and juices or smoothies where appropriate. Where menu items such as ‘specials’ are advertised separate to the main menu items, e.g. on chalkboards or similar material, the food allergen information must be updated each time a food item changes.
c) Retail outlets: Shops (general or specialised) and supermarkets sell a variety of non-prepacked foods such as bread, salads and hot food items. Written food allergen information can be provided for individual foods in close proximity to the individual food item containing the allergen or at a centralised location, similar to that for restaurants and takeaways. If not placed beside relevant food items, the written food allergen information must be easily located and accessible to the consumer and clearly identify the food allergen associated with individual food items. For supermarkets with a large floor space, it is preferable that written food allergen information is provided in close proximity to the non-prepacked food items containing allergens. However, if provided centrally, it should be available at one or a number of locations easily identified by consumers through conspicuous signage on the premises.
d) Other food outlets, e.g. food stalls, markets: Permanent or temporary stalls or markets, whether stationary or mobile must provide written food allergen information as a minimum requirement. As these facilities are generally small in scale, placing the written food allergen information in close proximity to the relevant food items or on a menu style format may be most convenient and effective. However, more centralised locations can be used but the information must be easily located and accessible an d provide clear and legible information associating particular food allergens with specific food items.
e) Food ordered remotely (electronically/by phone) and delivered to the consumer: Written food allergen information must be provided by food businesses engaged in ‘distance selling’. These include food businesses that receive food orders by phone or electronically and deliver those foods to the final consumer. Written allergen formation can be provided before the food is ordered, e.g. supporting material such as leaflets/catalogues or online information used to order the food. Alternatively, or in addition it can be provided at the moment of delivery of the food product, e.g. leaflets/catalogues or other printed material. Written food allergen information provided at the point of delivery could be specific to the purchased product or it could constitute general supporting material. Where the written allergen information is provided prior to delivery, allergen information must still be provided at the point of delivery. Such information can be provided verbally or else in a written format
f) Licensed premises : The written food allergen information already provided for prepacked beverages (bottled, canned etc.) must also be provided for the non-prepacked form which includes draught beer and cider, wine provided by the glass, cocktails, smoothies and juices. Allergen declarations for non-prepacked beverages could be provided in a number of ways. For example, wine lists could include sulphite information on certain wines, while allergen information for other beverages could be provided adjacent to or as an addition to the price list at a conspicuous location(s) on the premises. The precise allergen information required must be in the form of “Contains……”.
g) Specialised businesses, institutions and organisations: There are exceptional situations where the effective provision of written food allergen information for non-prepacked foods may require special arrangements.
1. Childcare facilities frequently prepare meals for the children in their care and so are required to provide written food allergen information. However, young children are not in a position to understand or appreciate written food allergen information and therefore, it is necessary that this information is provided to the parent or guardian, particularly when new or altered menu items are made available.
2. Healthcare facilities must be in a position to provide written food allergen information to patients that consume their meals outside of the regular dining areas, such as in their room or a ward. This is most effectively achieved by providing the information on menus, though other written formats are also acceptable. For patients who are not in a position to understand or appreciate written food allergen information, their carers or guardians should be provided with the written information in the interests of those patients.
3. Individuals in detention centres that cannot access general dining areas must be provided with written food allergen information, particularly when new or altered menu items are made available.
4. The requirement to provide food allergen information for non-prepacked food applies to food for sale or made available free of charge. Therefore, charitable institutions or organisations that provide food at no cost, either through central locations or delivered to homes or individuals must provide written food allergen information. The provision of written allergen information at central locations will be similar to that for restaurants. However, written information may need to be supplemented by verbal communication relating to relevant food allergens in certain circumstances.
The 14 Allergens
1. Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat (such as spelt and khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats or their hybridised strains, and products thereof, except:
(a) Wheat based glucose syrups including dextrose ( 1 );
(b) Wheat based maltodextrins ( 1 );
(c) Glucose syrups based on barley;
(d) Cereals used for making alcoholic distillates including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin;
2. Crustaceans and products thereof;
3. Eggs and products thereof;
4. Fish and products thereof, except:
(a) Fish gelatine used as carrier for vitamin or carotenoid preparations;
(b) Fish gelatine or Isinglass used as fining agent in beer and wine;
5. Peanuts and products thereof;
6. Soybeans and products thereof, except:
(a) Fully refined soybean oil and fat ( 1 );
(b) Natural mixed tocopherols (E306), natural D-alpha tocopherol, natural D- alpha tocopherol acetate, and natural D-alpha tocopherol succinate from soybean sources;
(c) Vegetable oils derived phytosterols and phytosterol esters from soybean sources;
(d) Plant stanol ester produced from vegetable oil sterols from soybean sources;
7. Milk and products thereof (including lactose), except:
(a) Whey used for making alcoholic distillates including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin;
8. Nuts, namely: almonds (Amygdalus communis L.), hazelnuts (Corylus avellana), walnuts (Juglans regia), cashews (Anacardium occidentale), pecan nuts (Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch), Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa), pistachio nuts (Pistacia vera), macadamia or Queensland nuts (Macadamia ternifolia), and products thereof, except for nuts used for making alcoholic distillates including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin;
9. Celery and products thereof;
10. Mustard and products thereof;
11. Sesame seeds and products thereof;
12. Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/litre in terms of the total SO2 which are to be calculated for products as proposed ready for consumption or as reconstituted according to the instructions of the manufacturers;
13. Lupin and products thereof;
14. Molluscs and products thereof.