Bureau Veritas urges food businesses to create robust plan ahead of allergen labelling changes

With new regulations coming into effect this year making allergen labelling compulsory on food that is pre-packed for direct sale, Bureau Veritas is welcoming these all-important changes whilst urging businesses to set out a clear plan for the transition towards more transparent labelling.

From 1 October 2021, all pre-packed for direct sale food will need to have a label showing the name of the food item and a full ingredients list with the 14 allergens required to be declared by food law (emphasised on the ingredients list if present). These 14 allergens include but are not limited to milk, wheat, sesame and soybeans and the ingredients label will be similar to those found on pre-packed food items sold in supermarkets.

At present, the allergen information for these products can be provided by any means – it is not mandatory for this to be written down or appear on a label. This includes being informed verbally by staff.

These changes come following the public lobbying of Natasha’s Law – set up after the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who suffered an allergic reaction to undeclared ingredients in a baguette which was pre-packed for direct sale.

The amendment to Food Information Regulations (FIR) will affect a number of businesses in the food service and retail industries, including cafes, fast food and takeaway outlets, and market stalls, and thus Bureau Veritas is reminding businesses to put in place clear and robust plans, to ensure they meet the new standard by 1 October.

George Macfie, food safety technical lead at Bureau Veritas, said: “At Bureau Veritas, we welcome the much-needed changes to allergen labelling on pre-packed for direct sale food. The amendment to FIR will offer consumers transparent information on which they can make informed and confident choices about their purchase, and literally could help to save lives. The regulatory changes however now put even more onus on the business to get it right, taking the responsibility away from the customer (who at present may have to ask for allergen information).”

The amendments to the FIR will ensure allergen labelling becomes a permanent fixture on food that is pre-packed for direct sale. This means that the food is packaged on the premiseswhere it is being sold, pre-packed before the consumer purchases it and is either fully or partially enclosed in packaging.

Macfie continues: “Key to ensuring businesses meet these new regulations will be implementing a robust plan and communicating this effectively throughout the business – from the development chefs and nutritionists who create the recipes all the way through to production and point of sale. A chink along this chain could cause information to be misconstrued or misinterpreted, potentially leading to incorrect labelling and allergen information being displayed.

“New infrastructure will also need to be put in place and additional expenditure such as purchasing labels and also investing in quality printing to ensure the information included on the label is legible. It may also be that internal training is required – especially for businesses which operate in multiple branches or locations where there will be a large number of staff to get up to speed on the changes for business and their individual responsibilities.

“Central to all of this will be documented management oversight at every stage in the process, ensuring effective transition to the new labelling format of communicating allergens. If in doubt, businesses can turn to a trusted third-party compliance partner, such as Bureau Veritas, which has extensive knowledge and experience in supporting the food industry.”

In partnership with top international food law group, Osborne Clarke, Bureau Veritas’ expert food technical team has launched a highly-topical, free webinar entitled ‘Understanding Allergen Requirements: Preparing for Food Labelling Changes’ which will take place on Thursday 28 January at 10.00am GMT.

The webinar will cover topics such as preparing for changes to Food Information Regulations, the new legal requirements around managing allergens, and offering practical tips on how to approach the new requirements for food which is pre-packed for direct sale.

Katie Vickery, partner and head of International Food Law Group at Osborne Clarke LLP, who has over 20 years’ experience in food hygiene and labelling laws, added: “Bureau Veritas has always been a business that leads the way in helping its clients and the wider industries keep on top of regulatory changes. Allergen labelling has been incredibly topical in recent years due to the sad death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, and the new clarity on labelling required for food pre-packed for direct sale is helpful for business and the industry as a whole. It will affect the ways in which a number of food manufacturers and retailers work, and it will require businesses to learn, absorb information and adapt to a new system of working.

“At Osborne Clark, we’re delighted to partner with Bureau Veritas on this webinar and I will be on-hand to advise businesses who need to understand the regulatory framework, or who require help to interpret the correct application of the law to ensure they meet these new regulatory requirements in time for the October deadline.”

Duty holders can register to attend the webinar by following this link: bureauveritas.zoom.us/webinar/register/5516109687652/WN_lKsyQYTjSeGH5rqHoK4rTA.

For more information about Bureau Veritas, visit www.bureauveritas.co.uk.

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