Food labels will have to list certain ingredients that people may be allergic to (allergens)

The UK Food Standards Agency has launched a public consultation on new food labelling rules that will mean food labels will have to list certain ingredients that people may be allergic to (allergens). This would include allergens such as cereals containing gluten, peanuts and soybeans.

At present, exemptions to the requirements for ingredient listing on pre-packed foods mean that the presence of some ingredients, including those that may be allergenic, is not always indicated.

The new EU rules, which will come into force in the UK in November, were recently agreed in Brussels. They amend the EU legislation on which current UK labelling requirements are based. This will improve current labelling requirements and make it compulsory to list certain specified allergens whenever they are used in pre-packed food and alcoholic drinks.

The new rules establish a list of 12 foods that will have to be listed clearly on labels whenever they are used in pre-packed foods including alcoholic drinks. Labels will also need to give clear information about ingredients made from these foods, for example a glaze made from egg.

The list contains: cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, nuts, soybeans, milk, celery, mustard, sesame, and sulphur dioxide at levels above 10mg/kg or litre.

The new rules also remove the '25% rule', under which individual ingredients making up a compound ingredient do not have to be listed if the compound ingredient makes up less than 25% of the finished product. In future, ingredient lists will be more comprehensive, and the presence of the specified allergens will have to be indicated.

The new rules will be implemented by means of new UK legislation, which will come into force in November 2004. The Food Standards Agency is consulting on the draft regulations and accompanying guidance notes.

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