Allergen labelling changes: Advice for food businesses

All UK food businesses are required to follow the information rules for food allergens. Although allergen information may be provided verbally to customers, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) advised that this needs to be backed up by the information being in writing, to ensure it is accurate and consistent. It is a key recommendation that the information be recorded - for example, in the form of product specification sheets, ingredients labels and recipes or explanations of dishes.

The FSA provides advice (external link), technical guidance and free online allergy training (external link) to help businesses meet their legal requirements.

Whilst your customers also have a responsibility to tell you about their allergy or intolerance, you must be able to demonstrate that you have accurate information and that it was available to the customer at the point of ordering or service.

In short: you must make sure that the 14 food allergens are declared, that your staff are trained about allergens, and that you manage allergens properly.

The law regarding the labelling of food and providing information is enforced by colleagues in Trading Standards. They have a comprehensive guide available for free download (external link).

Allergen labelling for pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) food

Food allergen labelling requirements for pre-packaged for direct sale food changed from 1 October 2021 in England. This affects businesses, as they need to display allergen labels on pre-packed for direct sale food for their customers. These changes provide essential information to help people with a food allergy or intolerance make safe food choices.

What is Pre-Packed for Direct Sale

Pre-packed for direct sale or PPDS is food which is packaged at the same place it is offered or sold to consumers and is in this packaging before it is ordered or selected. It can include food that consumers select themselves (for example from a display unit), as well as products kept behind a counter and some food sold at mobile or temporary outlets.

What does packaging mean here? 

Food is PPDS if: 
  • the food is fully or partly enclosed by the packaging
  • the food cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging
  • the food is ready for sale to the final consumer
Examples of this kind of packaging would be:
  • a cake completely wrapped in cling film
  • a sandwich placed in a paper bag with the bag folded over or twisted to encase the sandwich
  • rolls contained in a plastic bag that is tied with a knot or sealed
Food is not PPDS if it does not have packaging, or if it is packaged in a way that the food can be altered without opening or changing the packaging (for example a burger served on an open cardboard tray).

The FSA have prepared detailed guidance (external link)