Labelling And Allergens

You maybe recently diagnosed with allergies, or you might be someone who knows a person with allergies, this list is here to give somethings to think about to help to keep you safe.

Prepacked foods

The Food Standards Agency – prepacked foods as: “…any food that is put into its packaging before being put on sale and that cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging.”

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Non-prepacked foods

Food Standards Agency- non-prepacked foods as foods that are sold loose.

  • Meat or cheese that is sold at a deli counter.
  • Unpackaged bread
  • Vegetables that are sold by weight, for example at a market.
  • Pick ‘n’ mix sweets (including those that are individually wrapped).

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Food Standards Agency – ingredients lists must be on all packaging except for the following:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables that haven’t been peeled, cut or similarly treated
  • Carbonated water that is labelled as ‘carbonated water’
  • Fermented vinegars that are derived from a single, basic product (such as white wine) with no added ingredients
  • Cheese, butter, fermented milk or cream if its only ingredients are lactic products, food enzymes and microorganism cultures that are essential to
    its manufacture
  • Products that consist of a single ingredient where the name of the food is the same as the name of the ingredient or clearly identifies what the ingredient is (for example, peanuts or eggs)
  • Products on which no side of the packaging or container has a surface area larger than 10cm2
  • Products in glass bottles for reuse that have food information indelibly marked on them and have no other labelling (for example, milk bottles)
  • Any alcoholic drink containing over 1.2% alcohol by volume.

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) requirements for labels and packaging must include:

  1. Information for food content should be indelible (of ink or a pen) making marks that cannot be removed. (Definitions from Oxford Languages)
  2. Information must be supplied the name of the food, net quantity of food (weight, or volume if liquid), and alcoholic strength by percentage.

The information must be in a font of 1.2mm, if the surface area of packaging is less than 80cm2 the minimum height of labelling should be 0.9mm.

Precautionary allergen labelling

A company that cannot rule out cross contamination can put a precautionary allergen warming on the product, but this is not mandatory by law.

  • May contain.
  • Produced in a factory.
  • May contain X.
  • Not suitable for someone with X allergy
  • May contain traces of ..

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Precautionary allergen labelling FSA

Free From Labelling

Free from food are special ranges of foods made without allergens. If a label states that your product is ‘free-from milk’ or ‘peanut free’, it has to be based on specific and rigorous controls. These controls need to ensure that the final product is completely free of the particular allergen. This includes checking that all ingredients and packing materials do not contain this allergen and that cross-contamination from other foods made on site are prevented.

There is one exception to this rule which is gluten. Gluten-free labelled products can contain a maximum 20mg/kg of gluten.

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Allergen’-Free & Vegan Claims The Food and Drink Federation

Vegan Labels

Be careful with foods labelled as vegan. There is no legal definition of vegan, which means that foods labelled vegan are not always completely free of animal products. If you have food allergies to milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, or molluscs, read the ingredients list carefully on vegan food products. And look out for labels with warnings such as “may contain”. Source text NHS

There are certain controls that the supplier must ensure, these are:

  1. To make sure the product is totally free of the allergen that is declared.
  2. All ingredients and packaging do not contain the allergen that are claimed to be free from.
  3. To make sure there is no cross contamination during production, handling, or storage.

Reading Food Labels

  1. Always read the label several times, triple check, in the shop on the product, putting away in the cupboard, at home before consuming, if necessary, get someone else to read as mistakes can happen.
  2. Always check labels even if you had before because ingredients can change without notice. Some companies will use a logo to show change of recipe but remember this is voluntary and not all companies do this.
  3. Different size products can be processed in different factories and can handle different allergens, so allergens can be different.
  4. Always check for “may contain”, “made in a factory that handles”, “may contain traces of”, “unsuitable for”, these are suitable for people with severe allergies. These statements are voluntary and not required by law.
  5. Allergens are in bold but sometimes due to mistakes on labelling this may not be so, so always check labels. If a product does not comply with the Food Standards Agency, you can report it to them on the link below.
  6. Always keep up to date on food recalls (see menu link below)
  7. Do not buy foods without labels as you cannot know what is in the product, or from bulk bins e.g., scoop and weighing products.
  8. If you are uncertain about a label and ingredients get in contact with the company and do not consume until they have given you the information that you need.
  9. Teach children with allergies from an early age to read labels.
  10. Give yourself time shopping so you do not buy a product in a rush and make a mistake.
  11. Precautionary disclaimers are not required by law and is discretionary by manufacturer.
  12. ‘Natasha’s Law’ came into force in October 2021. The reforms cover labelling requirements for foods that are prepared and packed on the same premises from which they are sold – such as a packaged sandwich or salad made by staff earlier in the day and placed on a shelf for purchase. (Gov UK) see link below.
  13. Use your mobile phone camera if the print is too small to read so you can enlarge.
  14. Do not rely on information on shopping online sites as this could be outdated, or incorrect information.
  15. It is illegal to make a claim that is misleading so a “free from” allergen claim this must be an absolute claim. This means there should be no trace of the allergen at all. This is done by risk assessment on site where the product is made. “Free From” statements are voluntary and not a legal requirement, so it is up to the individual business if they want to make this claim.
  16. Reduced sale stickers must not cover ingredients. Labels must be easily visible, clearly legible and, where appropriate, indelible. Mandatory food information must not in any way be hidden, obscured, detracted from, or interrupted by any other written or pictorial matter of any other intervening material. Regulation (EU) N° 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to Consumers 2013. This is not acceptable, please talk to management.
  17. For free from Gluten claim see link below
  18. In multipacks check ingredients on individual packets at home as well as main ingredients on outer packaging as mistakes can happen and wrong product put into outer packaging.
  19. Ice cream parlours, in store bakeries, and delicatessens foods are usually unlabelled, always ask for ingredients. Also be mindful of cross contamination, same utensils being used, same trays, and food touching each other.
  20. Be aware of Vegan claims, as there is no legal definition of vegan. See below for link for definition
  21. Butchers, bakers, or delicatessens must provide allergen information for any loose item.
  22. If you see a label that’s incorrect report to the Food Standards Agency link below.
Source British Nutrition Foundation Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0
Source British Nutrition Foundation Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

Reporting an incorrect label

Trading Standards are responsible for enforcing food labelling. At last resort Food Standards Agency will get involved, the FSA can implement fines up to £5,000 if not complied with relevant legislation.

Natasha’s Law Gov UK

New laws starting 1st October 2021, for non-pre-packed foods. Rules for PPDS (prepacked for direct sale) foods packaged and produced on their premises, will include: The product has name of the food on packaging. The packaging should have full ingredients list with emphasised allergens in bold, italics or different colour font.

Natasha’s Law Checklist Nutrictics


Enlarging Ingredients

Use your camera zoom for small text.

Recipe change logo

Please always check ingredients not all companies place this logo on ingredient changes.

a good company putting on change of recipe logo.

Example of bad labelling and packaging

No allergen labelling, cross contamination, no eat by date, no ingredients, and packaging not secure.

More Links

Introduction to allergen labelling changes (PPDS) FSA

Guidance on “Free-From” Allergen Claims Food and Drink Federation

Understanding of Food Labelling Terms Food Standards Agency

Labelling and allergens Food Standards Agency Website

Allergen labelling The Vegan Society

Food allergen labelling and information requirements under the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation No. 1169/2011: Technical Guidance Food Standards Agency

If you have a concern over a product label, or the label is incorrect, or you have become ill because of the product, contact the link below.

Report a food problem Food Standards Agency

BSI Kitemark™ for Food Assurance

Key Regulations FSA 

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