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 any food they provide contain any of the listed 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 - changes to the law from October 2021

Prepacked for direct sale products are foods that have been packed on the same premises from which they are being sold.

Common foods that can fall into this category include sandwiches, salads and pies made and sold from the premises in which they are made. It is expected that the customer is able to speak with the person who made or packed the product to ask about ingredients.

Currently, allergen information can be provided in the same way as for non-prepacked (loose) foods. From October 2021, the way food businesses must provide allergen labelling information for Prepacked for Direct Sale (PPDS) will change. Foods will need to have a label with a full ingredients list with allergenic ingredients emphasised within it.

These changes will provide essential information to help people with a food allergy or intolerance make safe food choices.

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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