Food standards

The advice sheets below have the latest information on food standards. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Enforcement & Regulatory option).

Specified allergenic ingredients: Q and A

In the guide

This guidance is for England

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 'celery soup') 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'.

What are the 14 specified allergenic ingredients?

  • cereals containing gluten, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut, and their hybridised strains
  • peanuts (also called groundnuts)
  • nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamias and Queensland nuts
  • fish
  • crustaceans
  • molluscs
  • sesame seeds
  • eggs
  • milk and milk products (including lactose)
  • soy beans
  • celery
  • lupin
  • mustard
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites at levels above 10mg/kg or 10mg/litre expressed as SO2

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

The rules apply to both prepacked and loose food, such as that sold through 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 - 'peanut butter', for example - no further information is required.

Otherwise, the name of the allergen as stated in the list above must appear in the list of ingredients using a different typeset to add emphasis - for example, 'whey (from milk)' or 'couscous (wheat)'.

If more than one ingredient contains the same allergen, the indication of its presence must still be provided for each separate ingredient.

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 prepacked and loose food.

What about foods where ingredients are not normally listed?

For these types of product - such as cheese and yoghurt - the presence of the allergenic ingredient should be declared by using the words 'contains' followed by the name of the allergen.

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

The allergen labelling rules override any existing exemptions 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.

What about foods sold loose & foods sold from catering establishments?

Allergen information must be available and easily accessible by the consumer at the place where he is making his food choice. Examples of how this could be done include incorporating it into the menu, use of a ticket or, if the food can be ordered online, putting it on the website. It is also permissible to provide the information verbally, in which case a notice or chalkboard should be displayed informing the customer that allergen information is available on request. If this method is used, the information should be available in a written format so staff can refer to it and show it to the customer if required.

For food ordered by distance selling (such as takeaways or contract catering) allergen information must accompany the food (for example, on a copy of the menu or on labels or tickets) so that it is available to the final consumer.

Penalties

Failure to comply is an offence under the Food Information Regulations 2014. The maximum penalty is a fine.

Alternatively failure to comply may result in an improvement notice being issued, requiring compliance to be achieved. If the improvement notice is not complied with it is an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: December 2016

PixelPlease note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.