The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is launching a consultation on precautionary allergen information, for example menus carrying statements that the kitchen cannot guarantee food is free from allergens.
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By Joe Lutrario
Recent FSA studies have found that ‘food-hypersensitive consumers’ – people who live with food allergies, intolerances, or coeliac disease - appreciate precautionary allergen information or labelling such as the common ‘may contain’ when it clearly tells them about an unavoidable risk of allergen cross-contamination.
But consumers can also be confused by the range of precautionary labelling statements on food. The consultation will look at packaged food that’s sold in a retail environment but will also examine restaurant menus, websites and how information about allergens is delivered verbally by staff.
The FSA says studies found that the majority of food businesses are using these labels to try to protect consumers but are confused about when and how they need to do so. There is evidence that businesses need clarity on the measures they need to take to control the risk of allergen cross-contamination, which then informs their labelling decision.
"To help develop its work on this issue, the FSA wants to hear from businesses, local authority food teams, healthcare professionals, allergy charities, consumers and any other interested parties through a consultation and a series of online workshops.
"Consumers have told us that inconsistency in how precautionary allergen labelling and information is given can cause a lack of trust in the labels and stop them being able to enjoy certain foods," says Food Standards Agency director of policy Rebecca Sudworth.
"We know that precautionary allergen information is difficult for businesses and local authorities responsible for enforcing the law, and we very keen to hear from them about how to make the law clearer and easier to follow."
The consultation on precautionary allergen information opens on 6 December and runs until 14 March 2022. The FSA will also be gathering the opinions of businesses, local authority food teams responsible for enforcing the law, industry bodies and consumers through a series of in-depth workshops.
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