Allergen guidance for food businesses

Food business operators in the retail and catering sector are required to provide allergen information and follow labelling rules as set out in food law. This means that food business operators must:

  • Provide allergen information to the consumer for both prepacked and non-prepacked food and drink.
  • Handle and manage food allergens effectively in food preparation.

Food businesses must make sure that staff receive training on allergens. Staff can complete the Food Standards Agency food allergy training. Managers can also share their allergen checklist with staff for tips on food allergy best practice.

There is separate guidance for food manufacturers and institutional caterers.

14 allergens

Food businesses need to tell customers if the food they provide contains any of the 14 specified allergens as an ingredient.
Consumers may be allergic or have intolerance to other ingredients, but only the 14 allergens are required to be declared as allergens by food law.

The 14 allergens are: celery, cereals containing gluten (such as barley and oats), crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters), eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs (such as mussels and oysters), mustard, peanuts, sesame, soybeans, sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if they are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million) and tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts).

This also applies to additives, processing aids and any other substances which are present in the final product.

Prepacked food for direct sale

Prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) products are foods that have been packed on the same premises from which they are being sold. The law regarding how they must be labelled changed in October 2021 and is often referred to as ‘Natasha’s law’. These types of food must now have a label displaying a full ingredients list with the allergenic ingredients emphasised within it. Further information on the new rules for allergen labelling changes for prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) food can be viewed on the Food Safety Agency website. This web page includes sector specific guidance for a range of businesses including butchers, schools, cafes, mobile traders and bakeries and a determinator tool which can help you decide if the food you sell is PPDS.

Common foods that fall into this category include sandwiches, salads, pies and cakes where they have been placed into a container prior to being ordered by a customer. As an example a sandwich made in advance, packed in a plastic box and displayed for sale would be classed as pre-packed for direct sale as the sandwich cannot be altered without the packaging being opened. However a sandwich made when ordered by customer and then placed into a bag or box would not be considered pre-packed for direct sale as the customer could ask the person making the sandwich for ingredient information and could ask for it to be made without a specific ingredient.

These changes provide essential information to help people with a food allergy or intolerance make safe food choices. It is very important that any labels applied contain accurate information and are reviewed and amended any time there is a change of ingredient, i.e. different brand of mayonnaise or bread.

Food allergens - further information

For full information on how to identify, control and label foods containing allergens in your business, please refer to the Food Standards Agency website.

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