UK – The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has unveiled updated food allergen and information technical guidance aimed at assisting both food businesses and consumers.

The guidance introduces changes related to the use of Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL) by food businesses.

While PAL remains voluntary, it serves to help consumers make informed choices regarding food safety. Key aspects of the guidance include advising businesses to apply PAL only when there is an unavoidable risk of allergen cross-contamination that cannot be adequately managed through segregation and cleaning.

“While the use of PAL is voluntary, it is important that it should be as accurate and helpful to consumers as possible when it is applied. The updates to this guidance will help businesses to effectively manage allergens, and ensure those living with food allergies and intolerances get the greatest possible benefit from PAL,” said Natasha Smith, Deputy Director of Policy at the FSA.

Specificity in PAL statements, such as “may contain peanuts” rather than generic “may contain nuts,” is encouraged.

Additionally, the guidance emphasizes the distinction between “vegan” and “free-from” claims regarding allergens and highlights that a “free-from” claim should guarantee the absence of the specified allergen, requiring strict controls to prevent cross-contamination.

PAL statements can be used to communicate the risk of unintended allergen presence. The guidance aims to improve allergen labelling accuracy and consumer safety.

Clearing confusion on vegan and allergen labelling

Natasha emphasized the updated guidance’s role in distinguishing between “vegan” and “free-from” claims regarding allergens.

A “free-from” allergen claim should ensure the specified allergen’s absence and requires rigorous cross-contamination controls. In contrast, a “vegan” claim focuses on dietary preference rather than food safety.

The guidance aims to provide clarity on PAL statements, ensuring they accurately communicate the risk of allergen presence identified through a food business’s risk assessment.

The FSA’s updated guidance seeks to empower consumers by enhancing the accuracy of allergen labelling in food products.

By specifying PAL statements and distinguishing between “vegan” and “free-from” claims, businesses can provide more precise information, assisting consumers with food allergies and intolerances in making safe choices.

While PAL remains voluntary, the guidance encourages its use to benefit both businesses and consumers.

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