Specified allergenic ingredients – Q&A
Prepacked foodstuffs must identify certain allergens on the label; there are 14 listed allergens, including fish and peanuts
This guidance is for England and Wales
There is a list of 14 specific food allergens including eggs, fish, peanuts and milk. In general, prepacked food and drink are required to have these specified allergens identified in the labelling. Where the allergenic ingredient is clearly identified in the name of the food (such as 'prawn cocktail') or it is similarly identified in the 'ingredients' list by the use of its name, no further information is required.
When labelling, best practice advice is for plain language to be used in the listing of ingredients - for example, 'milk protein' rather than 'casein'.
In the guide
The rules apply to prepacked food and drink in general, including alcoholic beverages, but they do not apply to certain fancy confectionery, food sold loose, food prepacked for direct sale, and non-prepacked food sold at catering establishments.
All added ingredients and their components, if they are present in the finished product, even in an altered form, including the following:
Where the allergenic ingredient is clearly identified in the name of the food - 'prawn cocktail' for example - or it is similarly identified in the 'ingredients' list by the use of its name, no further information is required.
Best practice advice is for simple language to be used in the listing of ingredients, such as 'milk protein' instead of 'casein'.
Dependent upon the space available in the ingredients list, the allergenic ingredient(s) can be identified thus - for example 'whey (from milk)', 'couscous (wheat)'.
Where more than one ingredient contains the same allergenic ingredient, it is acceptable to identify them by the use of asterisks linked to a single source ingredient at the end of the ingredients list - for example '* from soya'. However, where there is more than one source ingredient, such as soya and eggs, confusion could arise by using this method.
Alternatively, a separate 'allergens information' box/panel may be used to indicate which specified allergens are present:
There are specific requirements for the composition and labelling of 'gluten free' and 'low-gluten products'. Further information on the labelling of 'gluten free' foods can be found on the Food Standards Agency website. These requirements apply to both packaged and loose food, such as that sold through catering establishments.
For these types of product - such as cheese and yoghurt - best practice advice would be to declare the presence of the allergenic ingredient by the words 'contains milk' (for example).
The allergen labelling rules override any exemptions that exist from ingredients listing for certain foods, including foods in small packaging and beverages containing more than 1.2% by volume of alcohol. The presence of any specified allergenic ingredient in these foods/drinks must be indicated by the word 'contains' followed by the name of the ingredient.
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted. Please contact us for further information.
Last reviewed/updated: August 2014
Northumberland County Council, Trading Standards Service, Loansdean,
Morpeth, Northumberland NE61
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