Office catering laws for caterers in 2021.
Trenchers catering in Birmingham will be making all allergen information available on every platter we deliver moving forward, due to the change in the law which takes effect from 2021, ensuring we meet all standards set by the UK Government.
Thank you to The British Sandwich Association for sending us the below law change and for all the advise.
COMPLYING WITH THE NEW ALLERGEN LABELLING REGULATIONS
After 1st October 2021, all pre-packaged foods sold in foodservice outlets (that packed the food) will be required by law to be labelled with the name of the product and an ingredients list, with any allergens highlighted.
This new legislation brings the foodservice sector closer in line with the requirements for packaged foods sold through retail outlets.
There are currently 14 allergens which are required by law to be listed (see addendum 1). These are ingredients which have been identified as causing illness, allergic reactions and in some cases severe illness and occasionally death.
The new regulations amend the Food Information Regulations 2014 (FIR) which requires food businesses to adhere to Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 and ensure that all mandatory food allergen information is accurate, available and easily accessible to their customers.
Currently foodservice businesses are able to provide this information in a number of ways, including orally on request, but are not required to print it on labels. From 1st October 2021 all foods that are pre-packed (except those that are loose and packed at the request of the customer) must be labelled with the name of the product and an ingredients list with any allergens highlighted clearly – emphasised, usually in bold lettering.
What does Prepacked Mean?
Basically, prepacked means any item of food that is put into a pack before it is put on sale, whether it is self-selected by the customer or served across a counter.
The only exceptions are products that are put into a bag or packaging after being chosen/bought by the customer...
This brings within the scope of the legislation products such as pre-weight cheeses and meats sold in a delicatessen as well as products like fresh pizzas sold from a deli counter in a supermarket.
Businesses convicted of failing to give allergen information under the new regulations, or providing false information, face the risk of unlimited fines by magistrates as well as potential damages if consumers suffer as a result. Local Authorities can also serve improvement notices for not listing ingredients correctly.
Cross Contamination Risks (Voluntary labelling)
Although a particular product recipe may not include a specific allergen, if any of the 14 prescribed allergens are used in the business, there may be a risk that small traces may get into the product accidentally.
Because tiny amounts of a food ingredient can cause a reaction in some people who suffer from intolerances (for instance a fragment of peanut or a couple of sesame seeds can be enough) businesses should consider the risks of cross contamination. This should be done by undertaking a meaningful risk assessment.
If this risk assessment identifies an issue, it is strongly recommended that all labels include a meaningful risk statement which any customer will understand specific to the food such as – ‘Please be aware that our businesses uses sesame seeds in preparing food which is not stated as an ingredient on this food. Please ask for further details’
The law requires that all mandatory allergen information must be easily visible, clearly legible and not obscured in any way, such as hidden under a fold in the packaging or visually difficult to read due to poor lettering or colour contrast.
Under the new regulations if a product contains any of the 14 allergens, these must be highlighted clearly in the list of ingredients. This is generally done by printing the allergens in bold type, in capital letters, in contrasting colours or by underlining them.
The ingredient list (including any allergens) has to be a minimum font size where x-height is 1.2mm or more. The only exceptions to this are if the product packaging surface is less than 80cm2, in which case the x-height can be reduced to 0.9mm, and if it is less than 10 cm2 (e.g. a single portion sachet of sauce) in which case the ingredient list can be omitted and provided by other means.
See Addendum 2 for examples.
It should be noted that the regulations do not allow alternative allergen statements, such as ‘Contains: wheat, egg and milk’. The specific allergens must be highlighted within the ingredient list.
What Information must be provided
The following information must be provided on the label or menu etc.:
The name of the product – This must provide consumers with an accurate description of the product.
- If there is a name prescribed in law this must be used. In practice this is only likely to apply to sandwiches and food to go products containing certain seafood, fish and meat products as ingredients; or
- Where there is no name prescribed in law, a customary name may be used. This might be a name that has become commonly understood by consumers and established over time such as BLT –bacon, lettuce and tomato); or
- Where no customary name exists, a name that is sufficiently descriptive to inform the consumer of the true nature of the food and to enable it to be distinguished from products with which it might otherwise be confused.
Most sandwiches and food to go products will fall into category 3 and require a descriptive name. Further guidance on the true names of sandwiches and food to go products is set out in Addendums 3 and 4.
A list of the constituent ingredients, with any allergens highlighted – All the ingredients used in making the product must be listed in descending order by the weight of each at the time the product was made, and they must be shown under a heading ‘Ingredients’. Because of the manual nature of foodservice businesses, it is generally accepted that some of the quoted quantities will be subject to variation. Businesses are, however, expected to control ingredients proportions as accurately as is reasonably practicable given the size and scale of the business and the available technology.
- The name used for an ingredient (excluding brand names) must be the name that would be used for the ingredient if it was being sold in its own right.
- Where compound ingredients are used (i.e. products comprising a number of different ingredients) the full list of those constituent ingredients must be included. This can either be done by stating the compound ingredient name followed by (in brackets) its ingredient list or by omitting the compound ingredient name and giving one combined ingredients list. Some compound ingredients can be listed as generic names only (e.g. cheese).
- There are some exemptions allowed for a few ingredients that are present in amounts of less than 2% of the product as sold. These are:
ingredients for which their composition is prescribed in EC Law (i.e. honey, jam)
herbs and spices or mixtures of both
foods which do not require an ingredients list (e.g. cheese, butter)
For these ingredients only the compound food name and any additives or allergens they contain need to be listed.
What must be highlighted
Care needs to be taken when highlighting the allergens that the correct allergen is highlighted as required under the law. For example, if a product contains ‘wheatflour’, only the word ‘wheat’ has to be highlighted – so it could appear either as ‘wheatflour’ on the label or ‘wheatflour’.
However, if the allergen appears as a single word within an ingredient – such as ‘Skimmed milk concentrate’ only the word ‘milk’ should be highlighted.
Additional care also needs to be taken where an ingredient is referred to under an alternative name to ensure that any allergens are similarly identified. For example, ‘gingelly oil (Sesame) or edamame beans (soya).
The new rules do not alter the requirements for food that is sold remotely, such as via deliveries. In this case, if the order is placed remotely, such as via a website or telephone, the information about allergens must be provided at the point of purchase as well as being available at the moment of delivery.
In the case of websites, customers should be provided with ingredients including allergen information at the point they make the decision and before payment is made. In this case the only information that needs to be provided is the list of allergens as there is no requirement for an ingredient list for foods sold by distant selling.
Where orders are placed over the telephone, those taking the orders should have information about allergens they can refer to and should ask every customer if they have any intolerances and inform them of any allergens that the product they are ordering may contain.
In both the above cases, if there is any risk of cross contamination, this should also be made clear to customers.
In addition, the regulations also require that information about ingredients and allergens must also be available at moment of delivery. This can be done by labelling the product, on a menu that is delivered with the product, verbally by those making the deliveries or by providing a telephone number on the packaging that customers can call for the information.
In all the above cases, care must be taken to ensure that the information provided is accurate and the allergen information must be clearly linked to the individual product it relates to.
Platters, Buffets and Lunch Boxes Etc.
Where multiple varieties of product are supplied, such as platters of sandwiches and cakes etc., the same information about ingredients and allergens must be provided in a way that ensures that the information is visible to those consuming the products. For example, this might be done on a display card, in the case of a buffet, or a menu listing the products and their constituent ingredients/allergens. However, the allergen information must be provided for each food item (dish) and not a as generic statement.
Again, any cross-contamination risks should be highlighted.
The above rules also apply to non-prepacked foods, such as meals served in a café or canteen, although in this case the information can be provided “in a manner that is easily accessible’ to the consumer, including orally. This means it can be provided on a display card or menu positioned close to the food items or consumers can be signposted to where it can be found, such as ‘ask a member of staff’.
Signposting must be clearly visible and legible but where it is located is not specified. It could, therefore, be highlighted on menus, chalkboards, order tickets, labels etc.
In the case of non-prepackaged food, there is no requirement to provide a full ingredient list, but allergen information must be highlighted. So, a chicken tikka sandwich served on a buffet could simply be labelled ‘Chicken Tikka (contains milk, nuts (almonds)’
Where businesses decide to provide allergen information orally, they are responsible for ensuring that the staff are suitably trained and that the information they provide is accurate.
The best policy is to have the full ingredient list in written format, with allergens highlighted, on a chart or recipe sheet which can be handed to customers if they ask about allergens. This is particularly important if a member of staff or customer does not speak English as their first language.
Catering and Sampling
Allergen information must also be provided where food is given away for sampling purposes or provided for an event, such as a lunch for a meeting or conference.
In this case, it is treated as loose foods and the information can be provided either in writing or by signposting (see above).
Obligation on Suppliers
The regulations place an obligation both on the suppliers of ingredients and on the food business operator to make sure that accurate information on allergens and ingredients is passed on to consumers.
Just as foodservice operators must ensure their customers have the information, so suppliers are obliged to provide accurate ingredients and allergen information to the food businesses they supply.
However, under the regulations, the businesses buying the ingredients are also held responsible for ensuring that they get this information from the suppliers. In other words, not knowing is not a defence.
Identifying Allergens in Supplied Ingredients
Foodservice operators should be able to rely on the labelling used on products supplied to them to identify the ingredients and allergens they need to declare. However, care should be taken to ensure that suppliers do provide this information.
Particular care needs to be taken, however, to ensure that ingredient declarations are updated if the business changes suppliers or uses a substitute brand.
In order to label products, businesses will generally need a computer with a labelling programme and a printer. Alternatively, ready printed labels can be purchased but be aware that this gives no flexibility for making amendments if an ingredient changes.
As ingredient labelling is a legal requirement, it is also important to consider the risks of equipment breaking down, so it is worth thinking about a computer support service and/or having back-up equipment available rather than risking letting customers down if there is a breakdown.
A number of software solutions are available that will provide systems that will do most of the work for you but take care that they are tried and tested systems by getting references from other users.
Useful Guidance and Free Training
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published guidance on allergen labelling which can be found at https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/allergen-guidance-for-food-businesses
The FSA has also published a helpful checklist for food businesses on handling allergens https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/allergen-checklist-for-food-businesses
It is also offering free on-line training for businesses operators and staff at https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/allergy-training-for-food-businesses
ALLERGENS THAT MUST BE DECLARED
1. Cereals containing gluten (i.e. wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut or their hybridised strains); except for
(a) wheat-based glucose syrups, including dextrose#
(b) wheat-based maltodextrins#
(c) glucose syrups based on barley
(d) cereals used for making distillates or ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin for spirit drinks and other alcoholic beverages.
Note: It is the specific name of the cereal (e.g. Rye) that must be highlighted. Businesses can also voluntarily include reference to gluten (containing gluten) but this should not be highlighted.
2. Crustaceans and products thereof (e.g. prawns, crabs, lobster, crayfish etc.)
Note: The regulations do not specify the names of specific crustaceans, so the rules apply to all crustaceans. These should be declared as, for example, prawns (crustaceans).
3. Eggs and products thereof
Note: Where eggs are used as a constituent ingredient, such as in mayonnaise, they must be declared as ‘mayonnaise (eggs).
4. Fish, except for
(a) fish gelatine used as a carrier for vitamin or carotenoid preparations
(b) fish gelatine or isinglass used as a fining agent in beer and wine
Note: As the regulations do not specify the names of specific fish, the rules apply to all species of fish. These should be declared as, for example, salmon (fish).
5. Peanuts and products thereof
Note: Often referred to as groundnuts (not to be confused with ground/powdered nuts such as almonds) or monkey nuts, the term peanuts must be used in relation to all products in this category, including both refined and unrefined peanut oil.
6. Soybeans and products thereof, except for:
(a) fully refined soya bean oil and fat#
(b) natural mixed tocopherols (E306), natural D-alpha tocopherol, natural D-alpha tocopherol acetate, natural D-alpha tocopherol succinate from soya bean sources
(c) vegetable oils derived from phytosterol esters from soya bean sources
(d) plant sterol ester produced from vegetable oil sterols from soya bean sources.
Note: Care needs to be taken to declare soya in relation to products such as tofu and edamame which are derivatives of soya. These should be declared as ‘tofu (soya)’ of ‘edamame (soya)’
7. Milk and products thereof (including lactose); except for
(a) whey used for making distillates or ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin for spirit drinks and other alcoholic beverages
Note: In terms of the regulations, the term ‘milk’ applies to all types of milk whether from cow, goat, buffalo etc. However, because consumers recognise milk products such as cheese, butter and cream, these ingredients do not have to have an ingredients list so long as no other ingredients have been added to them other than lactic acid, food enzymes, microbiological cultures and (in the case of cheese) salt. Under the rules these milk products can be highlighted in their own right (e.g. butter). However, it is generally considered good practice to treat these like any other allergen and highlight the milk – e.g. ‘butter (milk)’
8. Nuts, namely almonds (Amygdalus communis L.), hazelnuts (Corylus avellana), walnuts (Juglans regia), cashews (Anacardium occidentale), pecan nuts (Carya illinoisis (Wangenh) K.Koch), brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa), pistachio nuts (Pistacia vera), macadamia or Queensland nuts (Macadamia ternifolia)
Note: Whether nuts are a core ingredient or a constituent part of another ingredient, they must listed and the type of nut emphasised (e.g. almonds or ‘flavourings (almond).
9. Celery and products thereof (includes celeriac, celery spice, celery seeds etc.)
Note: This requirement includes all parts and forms of the celery plant, including items such as celery salt and celery oil.
10. Mustard and products thereof
Note: The regulations do not name any particular types of mustard and, therefore, must be applied to all types.
11. Sesame seeds and products thereof
Note: The regulations do not name any particular types of sesame seed and care must be taken to include derived products, such as tahini – e.g. tabhini (sesame).
12. Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg or 10mg/litre expressed as SO²)
13. Lupin and products thereof
14. Molluscs and products thereof (includes mussels, oysters, whelks, scallops etc.)
# The exception only applies to products derived from these products in so far as the process they have undergone is not likely to increase the level of allergenicity assessed by the European Food Safety Authority for the relevant product from which they originated.
HOW TO MEASURE X-HEIGHT
The regulations require that the font size used to list ingredients on a label must have an x-height of at least 1.2mm. The only exceptions to this are if the product packaging surface is less than 80cm2, in which case the x-height can be reduced to 0.9mm, and if it is less than 10 cm2 (e.g. a single portion sachet of sauce) in which case the ingredient list can be omitted and provided by other means.
The x-height is the difference between the top and bottom of a lower-case x in whatever typeface you are using.
The following are a few examples of 1.2mm x-heights in different fonts.
Arial: 6.5 point
Arial Black: 6.5 point
Calibri: 7.5 point
Cooper Black: 7 point
Courier New: 8 point
Tahoma: 6.5 point
Times New Roman: 7.5 point
1. General Principles
Bread: From the nature of their preparation and presentation, the consumer is usually visually able to determine when white wheat flour bread has been used in sandwiches and food to go products and, where this is so, it is not generally necessary to specify this type of bread in the name of a sandwich. However, for other types of bread where the nature of the bread is not visually clear and can easily be confused, the type of bread and/or the species of grain used should be included in the full name (e.g. malted brown bread, oatmeal bread etc.).
NOTE: “Wholemeal” and “Wheat germ” have specific meanings as defined in the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998.
Compositional Standards: Certain ingredients have legal compositional standards set out in other legislation, such as the Products Containing Meat etc. Regulations 2014. Where there is a compositional standard, there are often reserved descriptions for products meeting a specified composition. In these circumstances, the reserved description/name should be used as part of the name of the sandwich. Examples of such ingredients include many meat products, such as corned beef, sausages and burgers as well as cheeses, such as Cheddar and Gloucester. It should be noted that these names may only be used for products meeting these compositional standards.
Protected Names: Some names have a protected status under PDO/PGI/TSG legislation which can cover origin, method of production and composition. The protected name may only be used where a product meets all the conditions of the protection and must be used as the name. PDO relates to protected designations of origin; PGI relates to protected geographical indications; and TSF relates to traditional speciality guaranteed.
Name of the Food: There is no requirement for the name of the sandwich to reiterate the ingredients list but the name should accurately describe the product and inform the consumer about the key value or characterising ingredients. As a general rule the way in which ingredients are named by ingredient suppliers will act as a guide to how the sandwich itself should be described.
Ingredient Names: These should not be changed or enhanced. For example:
- brown bread should not be described as “wholemeal”
- margarine and other fat spreads should not be described as “butter”
- cheese substitutes should not be described as “cheese”
- processed cheese should not be described as “cheese”
- cured pork shoulder should not be described as “ham”
- chicken roll should not be described as “chicken”
- ham containing added water should not be described as “dry cured”.
Processes: Best Practice Guidance
Where an ingredient has been subject to a characterising treatment or process care needs to be taken to indicate this accurately and in a manner which cannot mislead. For example:
- steam cooked and flash roasted meats should be described accurately (e.g. cooked and roasted beef) and not be simply described as “roast”;
- reformed ham must be described must not be described as “traditional”;
- ham, chicken or turkey containing added water, hydrolysed proteins and starch etc. must be described as such (e.g. processed ham, reformed ham) and not simply as ‘ham’, ‘chicken’ or ‘turkey’;
- ingredients treated with smoke solution/smoke flavour should be described as ‘smoke flavoured’ and not simply as being “smoked” without further qualification.
SUMMARY OF DEFRA/FSA ADVICE ON THE LABELLING OF SANDWICHES AND FOOD TO GO PRODUCTS CONTAINING MEAT INGREDIENTS
For both prepacked and non-prepacked sandwiches and food to go products, apart from where sandwiches and food to go products are made and sold at catering establishments, a true nature name of the food is legally required.
It is good practice for the true nature name of the food to be stated next to the fancy name. This is consistent with the FSA Clear Food Labelling Guidelines.
Where the true nature name of the food is not placed next to the fancy name, or is not sufficiently prominent to be easily seen, then best practice is for the fancy name to be more informative to provide sufficient information for consumers to make a reasoned choice.
It is considered good practice for catering establishments to be similarly explicit on any menus, tickets or notice boards.
It is a legal requirement to make the following clear on labels:
- Contains added water - where water amounts to over 5% of a product that has the appearance of a cut, joint, slice, portion or carcase of meat or a cut, joint, slice, portion, fillet or of a whole fishery product (e.g. “ham with added water”).
- Contains proteins of animal origin from a different animal species to that of the meat (e.g. “chicken with pork protein”, “ham with milk protein”).
- State when meat is reformed (e.g. “reformed ham”, “chicken roll”, “processed ham”).
- EC Food Information Regulation No 1169/2011 - Click here to view the PDF
- The Food Information Regulations 2014/1855 - Click here to view the page
- Defra – Food Information Regulations 2013 Guidance to compliance (DRAFT) - Click here to view the PDF
- Technical guidance on nutrition-related provisions of EU FIC – Click here to view the page
- Nutrition Labelling – Step-by-step guide to creating a front of pack nutrion label - Click here to view the PDF
- EC tolerance guidance – Click here to view the PDF
- Use of term Fresh - Click here to view the PDF
- Guidance - Meat Products; Sell them legally in England - DEFRA/FSA, January 2017 - Click here to view the page
- Department of Health Technical Guidance on Nutritional Labelling 2017 - Click here to view the PDF