Changes are afoot……..

Changes Ahead


As of the 13th December of this year, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will be changing the current allergen labelling rules. Hooray!

Here is a summary of the information provided by the FSA

This should make life easier for those that suffer from food allergies not only when it comes to checking labels on pre-packed food but from this date you will also be able to check foods without any packaging. What is also good news is that many businesses are already starting to make changes to how they label allergens on their products ahead of the deadline.

Under the new rules, much of the focus is on highlighting and emphasising the 14 main allergens (mentioned in yesterday’s Itchy Scratchy post) on the food label; particularly the ingredients list.  This should make it much easier to see the allergen without the need for a microscope.

Food businesses can choose what method they want to use.  For example they might list them in bold:

INGREDIENTS: Water, Carrots, Onions, Red
Lentils (4.5%) Potatoes, Cauliflower, Leeks,
Peas, Cornflour, Wheatflour, Salt, Cream,
Yeast Extract, Concentrated Tomato Paste,
Garlic, Sugar, Celery Seed, Vegetable Oil,
Herb and Spice, White Pepper, Parsley.

INGREDIENTS: Water, Carrots, Onions, Red
Lentils (4.5%) Potatoes, Cauliflower, Leeks,
Peas, Cornflour, Wheatflour, Salt, Cream,
Yeast Extract, Concentrated Tomato Paste,
Garlic, Sugar, Celery Seed, Vegetable Oil
(sunflower), Herb and Spice, White Pepper,

Other types of emphasis may include writing the allergens in italics, underlined or highlighted words.

What is useful to know however is that with this change to the food label, apparently there will be no additional statement that says ‘contains x’ allergen.  Now I am not sure why this is  – they seem to want to redirect everyone to the ingredient list but I think they could have kept this statement.

The voluntary ‘Contains gluten’ statements that some businesses currently use will be phased out. You will need to look for the cereals containing gluten. For example wheat, rye, and barley will be emphasised within the ingredients list. Again, I think this is a mistake.


Also, bear in mind that some products (such as tinned or dried food) have a long shelf life. It’s possible that you could see both types of labelling (the new and the old) being used on these types of products for a couple of years after December 2014.
It is important to always check the ingredients list for information about allergens.


Currently, foods purchased without packaging or upon a customer’s request, in supermarkets, delis, cafes and restaurants, don’t have to provide information you need about food allergens.  From December, information on any of the 14 allergens used as ingredients will need to be provided for foods sold without packaging or wrapped on site.  This information could be written down on a chalk board or chart, or provided orally by a member of staff (but I am less confident about this final option; I think many could fall through the net here)


Where the specific allergen information is not provided upfront, clear signposting to where this information could be obtained must be provided.These rules will only cover information about major allergens intentionally used as ingredients. They do not cover allergens present following accidental contact / contamination.


If buying food online, the website must give information about their products that will help you choose items that don’t contain the food you need to avoid. This information might not always be up to date though, so always check the ingredients list or label or speak an advisor every time you order or have food delivered.

If you are allergic to a food that is not on the regulatory list of 14, it may not be included on the allergen information provided.

If in doubt, speak to someone who can advise you. However, as this information does not need to be provided at present, be aware that the person serving you might not actually know what is in the foods.

Don’t take risks if you or they aren’t sure.

I hope you found this helpful!

What’s that in your curry?

I love a good curry! Particularly a tasty lamb rogan josh, but I may be thinking twice before ordering this from a takeaway based on yesterday’s news.  I thought we had seen the last of meat mislabeling following the horse meat scandal over a year ago but the Food Standard Agency who are responsible for food safety in the UK have revealed further meat fraud.  They tested 145 samples of lamb takeaway meals between July and December last year.  They found that 30% of the lamb takeaway meals contained meat other than lamb. 17% of these were found to contain only beef. Other meat species identified included chicken and turkey. No samples were found to contain horse meat but I don’t think this makes me feel any better!


I sit here thinking surely I would be able to tell the difference between lamb and chicken in a curry? Perhaps lamb and beef could be a bit more tricky with the intense flavours and seasoning? For once I feel a little tiny bit sorry for the paralytic that ‘enjoy’ a curry after a night of heavy drinking (something that has never ever appealed to me yuk!) – not that I imagine they would ever have been able to tell what meat was in their curry, never mind remember or care about what they ordered – but I just don’t like the idea of people being deliberately mislead with food.  I also think about the ‘meat’ curry I have often seen on a menu; I have always wondered what the meat was, felt too stupid to ask and thought it might be a bit dodgy anyway.


The Which consumer organisation have also completed their own survey of lamb dishes taken from restaurants in Birmingham and London.  They  bought 60 lamb takeaways; 30 curries and 30 minced lamb kebabs, of which a total of 24 were adulterated with beef and chicken. 7 of them contained no lamb at all and 5 of them contained ‘meat’ that couldn’t even be identified because it had been so highly processed (repeatedly reheated or over cooked).  As with the typical rumours that start with these sorts of reports, some are speculating that  this unidentified meat is possibly from vermin or pets (I don’t think I need to say any more than that as I am feeling quite sick at the thought now).  It is also disturbing that those of Hindu or Sikh faith who do not eat beef for religious reasons may be unknowingly consuming it.


So funding to £2.2 million has been made available for local authorities to carry out food sampling and increase unannounced inspections of meat cutting plants but again we have lost confidence in food – best we just stick to cooking at home, at least you know what you’re getting. Don’t you?!