From 1 October 2021 there will be a change in the law relating to allergen labelling on food that is pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) at outlets such as coffee shops.
Currently and until 1st October 2021, food businesses can provide mandatory allergen information for PPDS food by any means that they choose, including orally by a member of staff. Anecdotal evidence collected by Government indicated that it was often difficult for some consumers to distinguish between pre-packed and PPDS foods, and that some consumers assumed that the absence of allergen information on PPDS foods meant that food allergens were not contained in the product.
To address this issue, from 1 October 2021, a change in the law means that PPDS must have the name of the food and a list of ingredients directly on the packaging or label. If the food contains any of the 14 allergens, they must be emphasised in bold, upper case, contrasting colours or underlined. This change will bring the provision of allergen information on PPDS foods in line with labelling for pre-packed food, reducing consumer confusion.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has recently published guidance on the new labelling rules and although the guidance is not binding, it informs enforcement authorities as to how to apply the new law, and should therefore be given proper consideration by food business operators (FBOs).
Since PPDS is not defined in the legislation, the guidance sets out what the FSA considers to be PPDS. It states that foods considered to be PPDS will be those that meet the following criteria:
- The food is presented to the consumer in packaging which is completely or partially enclosed in a way that makes it impossible to alter the food without opening or changing the packaging.
- The food is packaged before the consumer orders it.
- The food is packaged in the same place it is sold. This includes food packaged by a food business on the same site where it is sold, or food sold from temporary or moveable premises (such as a food truck).
- Whether a food product is PPDS must be assessed on a case by case basis.
The guidance also offers the following as examples of PPDS food:
- A butcher who makes burgers or sausages which are pre-packed to be sold on the same premises.
- Sandwiches placed into packaging by the FBO and sold from the same premises.
- Boxed salads placed into packaging by the FBO and later sold from the same premises.
- Cafés giving away packaged samples of a new range of cakes made on the same premises.
- Foods packaged and taken by the same FBO to their market stall to sell.
- Foods that are pre-weighed and packed in a shop such as cheese or baked goods from an in-store bakery.
- Fresh pizzas from a delicatessen counter in a supermarket.
Failure to comply with the new allergen labelling rules is a criminal offence and may result in a criminal prosecution being brought against the FBO. A person convicted of an offence under the new legislation will be liable to an unlimited fine, the amount of which will be decided by magistrates on a case by case basis.
It is important that FBOs study the guidance and understand the steps that they need to take to ensure that they are ready for when the new rules take effect. FBOs should establish which products qualify as PPDS and identify any allergens that the foods may contain, including any risks of cross contamination during production. Once this has been established, FBOs must consider how PPDS foods can be effectively labelled.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.