Food businesses at all stages of the supply chain, including caterers and restaurants, will have to be compliant with the first phase of Food Information Regulations by 13 December 2014.
To understand how this will affect your business and how you can stay compliant, read on.
What are the Food Information Regulations?
The Food Information Regulations 2014 ('FIR') are the UK's implementation of EU Regulation 1169/2011 (the 'FIRs'). The aim of which is to provide consumers with clearer information about the contents of the food that they consume. The FIRs are being brought into force using a phased approach, with many of its key provisions still not yet operational. However, food businesses at all stages of the food chain, including caters and restaurants, will have to be compliant with the first phase by 13 December 2014.
What the FIRs mean to Food Business Operators
The single most important change implemented by the FIRs, is the strict requirements placed upon food businesses to provide consumers with information regarding allergens contained in the food and drink products they sell or serve.
There are 14 allergens listed at Annex II of the FIRs, and food businesses must provide information regarding the allergens, regardless of whether or not they manufacture or pre-pack the food themselves. The 14 Allergens are listed below:
- Cereals containing gluten
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxide
For pre-packaged food, the allergens within the food must be clearly labelled within the list of ingredients by highlighting or emboldening the word of the allergen.
For non pre-packaged food, (for example food/drink served in a restaurant or café) the food business operator must at least make the information available on request and display, in a clear manner, how this information can be obtained.
In addition, the FIRs have also implemented the following requirements:
- All food business operators (excluding caterers) must name foods which they offer for sale, using first their legal name and where this isn't available their customary or descriptive name.
- Where meat or foods containing meat are sold, food businesses (excluding caterers) must provide the names of the animals the meat has derived from, and comply with the provisions in the Directive relating to total fat and connective tissue content.
- Food businesses selling bulk foods treated with ionising radiation must display this clearly for the consumer to see and in the case of foods containing ingredients treated with ionising radiation, this information must be contained on the food label.
How to comply with the FIRs
From the 13 December 2014, food businesses need to ensure that they:
- Know the ingredients contained in the food that they sell or serve
- Identify if any of the 14 food allergens (listed above) are included as ingredients
- Provide consumers with accurate information regarding the allergen ingredients
- Establish a procedure for ensuring staff always provide complete and correct allergen information; and
- Consider the risk of cross-contamination where food is being prepared or during any manufacturing process
It is a criminal offence not to comply with the provision of the FIRs, and if found guilty, food operators can face the maximum fine in the Magistrates' court for each offence, currently set at £5,000. However, you may be interested to know that the sentencing guidelines for Magistrates' courts are currently being reviewed, with the intention of the maximum becoming unlimited. Please see our separate article here for further information.
According to the Food Standards Agency, in the UK around ten people die every year from food-induced anaphylaxis caused by allergies. It's unlikely that these figures have generated the implementation of the FIRs, and instead we're seeing another example of the shift in existing food law to ensure that all consumers are provided with clear and unambiguous information in order to make an informed choice about the food they consume.
Please feel free to contact a member of our regulatory team for more information about how we can assist your business in relation to any aspect of food law compliance and or ongoing enforcement issues.
This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.