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Specified allergenic ingredients - commonly asked questions

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
What are the 14 specified allergenic ingredients?
Which categories of food require specified allergens to be identified in the labelling?
Which categories of ingredients are covered by these requirements?
How should the allergenic ingredient be indicated on the label?
What about foods where ingredients are not normally listed?
What about other foods that are currently exempt from ingredients listing?

What are the 14 specified allergenic ingredients?

  • cereals containing gluten: wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut and their hybridised strains
  • crustaceans
  • eggs
  • fish
  • peanuts
  • soybeans
  • milk
  • nuts including almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios, macadamias, and Queensland nuts
  • celery
  • mustard
  • sesame seeds
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10mg/kg or 10mg/litre expressed as SO2
  • lupins
  • molluscs

Which categories of food require specified allergens to be identified in the labelling?
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.

Which categories of ingredients are covered by these requirements?
All added ingredients and their components, if they are present in the finished product, even in an altered form, including the following:

  • carry over additives
  • processing aids
  • solvents and media for additives or flavourings
  • any other substances used as processing aids

How should the allergenic ingredient be indicated on the label?
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:

Allergens
Contains egg, milk and wheat

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.

What about foods where ingredients are not normally listed?
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).

What about other foods that are currently exempt from ingredients listing?
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.

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance. 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.

Relevant legislation
Food Labelling Regulations 1996

Last reviewed/updated: June 2014

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Northumberland County Council, Trading Standards Service, Loansdean, Morpeth, Northumberland NE61 2AP
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