Response to proposed food standards agency consultation on allergen labelling

The Pizza, Pasta & Italian Food Association has issued the following response to the Food Standards Agency consultation on allergen labelling.

28th February 2020

Our Association was seriously concerned to learn that the Food Standards Agency is now proposing to include packaged products that are delivered in the new allergen labelling rules, particularly as we were never consulted on this when this legislation was originally discussed.

Quite apart from the costs that this involves, we are extremely worried about the risks of mislabelling, particularly with regard to pizza delivery where customers often ask for additional toppings etc.   This means that many products are not standardised and will, therefore, require individual labelling.

For businesses that have sophisticated EPOS systems, it may be possible to run labels from these but not all pizza businesses are in such a position.   There is also high risk, in that businesses will need to ensure that the correct label is attached to the right box.  

Currently, most delivery businesses have allergen information on websites and ask customers if they have any intolerances when they place an order by telephone.   This has been good practice in the industry for many years and we are not aware of any instances of this approach failing.

Furthermore, in tight kitchen spaces, it is very difficult to avoid some cross contamination.   This means that for some consumers, particularly those with major intolerances such as dairy products, there is a very high risk that by highlighting specific allergens in a product consumers could be misled into believing they are completely safe when they may not be.

For this reason, we believe that it will be very difficult for our member businesses to avoid including a general allergen statement on packs. Indeed, it would be irresponsible not to do so if there is any risk, particularly since this legislation was intended to make it safer for consumers with allergens.

Economics

Given that this legislation did not originally envisage including the broader packaged food sector, including delivery, we seriously question the DEFRA Impact Assessment that put the cost to industry at around £31 million.     That assessment was presumably made based on the original intention of capturing products that were packaged for self-service.   The new interpretation encompasses substantially more products than that and will impact most foodservice businesses.   We suggest that DEFRA should review its impact assessment on the basis of the broad reach that this legislation now has.

The Guidelines

In terms of the technical guidelines which are the subject of this consultation, we do not have major objections to them as they appear to take a logical approach.   Our only concerns are:

  1. On the basis that this legislation was intended to give greater reassurance to consumers with intolerances when buying products, the emphasis placed on discouraging general allergen risk statements seems misplaced.   Surely, the guidance should emphasise the importance of clearly labelling any risks there are rather than deterring businesses from stating risks from other ingredients than those listed on a label?   Indeed, from a business liability point of view this would be advisable in any environment where there are potential dangers of cross-contamination.
  2. The guidelines do not make it clear whether the QUID rules apply to the ‘list of ingredients’ in relation to this area?   If they do, we would question the ability of many businesses in this sector to comply with them.
  3. Given the complexity of this new legislation, we question whether EHOs and Trading Standards have sufficient resources to help smaller businesses comply with this new legislation?

Jim Winship
Director
The Pizza Pasta & Italian Food Association
M: 07850 104034
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.