Press Release

14 food allergens to be labelled on loose food under new laws – Varadkar

Peanuts, gluten, shellfish, and dairy products are covered

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has brought in new laws requiring that specific allergens including peanuts, gluten, shellfish and dairy products, should be clearly labelled on all loose food from this December.

This is an important development for sufferers of some of the most common food allergies and comes into effect from December 13th, as provided for under EU law. Minister Varadkar has signed a Statutory Instrument to enact the new laws, and similar measures are being signed into law in other EU countries.

The EU regulations cover everything from loose food in shops, to food sold in restaurants, pubs, takeaways, contract caterers, food stalls, as well as food being delivered.

Minister Varadkar said: “This is a significant measure for people who suffer from allergies to some of the most common food products. Although allergens already have to be declared on prepacked food, there is no such requirement for loose or non-prepacked products. The impact of allergens on sufferers can range from irritation, to a life-threatening reaction.

“Consumers want this information to be made available, and many commercial outlets already do so, but customers with allergies cannot afford to take chances. This new measure will put an end to that uncertainty. I look forward to consumers of non-prepacked foods receiving the same information as is currently available to consumers of pre-packed foods, as it will allow them to make informed choices.”

According to Prof Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), the ultimate objective of this new legislation is to prevent people who have an established food allergy or food intolerance from purchasing or consuming a food product which may be detrimental to their health.

“By extending the food allergen declaration requirement to include non-prepacked or loose food, consumers can now be confident they will be able to make more informed choices about all of the food they buy.  To assist the food industry in complying with these new regulatory requirements, the FSAI has produced a guidance document and an information booklet that is freely available on our website and as always, our advice line 1890 336677 is a direct resource to call with practical advice being provided by our experts.”

Fourteen food allergens which are specified under EU law will now have to be detailed on all loose food, including food sold in loose quantities, fresh food which has not been pre-packed, and food prepared in food businesses such as restaurants, caterers or institutions. It also covers food purchased on the internet.  It follows an extensive consultation process with food retailers and a broader public consultation process.

The substances covered by the new laws include:
•        Cereals containing gluten
•        Shellfish
•        Eggs
•        Fish
•        Soybean products
•        Milk
•        Nuts including peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews and other common types
•        Celery
•        Mustard
•        Sesame seeds

The legislation will be enforced by Environmental Health Officers under contract to the FSAI. The FSAI has prepared a general information note for food businesses to help them understand and comply with the new labelling requirements. They have also produced a more detailed guidance note for all stakeholders. Both documents are available on the FSAI website at: fsai.ie/faq/allergens.html