Original article by Zubi Sensational Food Labelling.
Disclaimer: MQA is a customer of Zubi Sensational Food Labelling. We use their online tool to develop labels for some of our MQA-clients. We believe this article may bring value to our customers and readers.
Proposal P1044: Plain English Allergen Labelling On 25th February 2021, the Food Standards Code was amended to incorporate Proposal P1044, Plain English Allergen Labelling. The new requirements in the labelling of food will help people to find allergen information on food labels more easily and more quickly.
There are 11 known foods and ingredients that can cause severe allergic reactions, which must be declared on labels when they are present in food sold in Australia and New Zealand. The format, wording and location of the allergen declaration, plus the use of mandatory specified terms in bold font, are now specified and must be adhered to.
Read the Approval Report for their decisions, and rationales for the decisions, read the Code in full here, and read on for some highlights that may be relevant to you.
Why was the change required?
Standard 1.2.3 Information requirements – warning statements, advisory statements and declarations of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code requires the mandatory declaration of the presence of certain foods or substances in food. But there was no requirement for how those statements should be made or the terminology to use. Making safe food choices was difficult for allergen sufferers and their caregivers. As a result, consumers unnecessarily excluded foods from their diet due to lack of confidence, or, worse, suffered potentially fatal reactions. Other consequences of the lack of clarity included compliance uncertainty both for industry and for regulators.
What changes were made?
- FSANZ amended the Code to require the following:
The use of mandatory specified terms of the allergen source (required name) when declaring allergens
- The separate declaration of:
- Individual tree nuts: Almond, Brazil nut, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, pecan, pine nut, pistachio, walnut
- Wheat, barley, rye, oats or their hybrids and gluten, if present
- For food required to bear a label, allergens are to be declared:
- In the statement of ingredients for each ingredient that is, or contains, an allergen and also in a separate but co-located summary statement beginning with the word ‘contains’
- Using bold type that provides a distinct contrast with any other text to make declarations easier to identify from surrounding information
- In a size of type no less than that used for other text
- With the use of the required name ‘gluten’ in the summary statement if the allergen is wheat, barley, rye, oats or their hybrids”
Permitted generic names and conditions for their use
- ‘Cereals’ and ‘starch’ — the specific name of the cereal must be listed if the cereal or source of the starch respectively, is wheat, rye, barley, oats or spelt or a hybridised strain of one of these cereals
- ‘Nuts’ — the specific name of the nut must be declared
- ‘Fish’ — if the food is crustacea, the specific name of the crustacea must be declared
- ‘Fats’ or ‘oils — the specific source name must be declared if the source of the oil is lupin, peanut, sesame, or soybean (unless the soybean oil has been degummed, neutralised, bleached or deodorised)
- ‘Soy’ — the use of the required name ‘soy’ in the summary statement will assist consumers to identify the presence of soy and reduce the likelihood of any confusion when a soy synonym is in the statement of ingredients
Food not required to bear a label
- Foods not required to bear a label (e.g. food made and packaged on the premises from which it is sold) are exempt from format and location requirements
- Allergen declarations for food not required to bear a label are, as previously, to be displayed in connection with a food or provided to the purchaser on request
- However, these foods will be required to declare allergens using the required name, excepting: ‘gluten’ instead of ‘barley’, ‘rye’ and ‘oats’ is to be declared for food not required to bear a label
- ‘Wheat’ must still be declared when it is present in food, irrespective of whether gluten is present
- The summary statement may only contain the 11 mandatory allergens and may not contain any other allergen, even if required in other jurisdictions
- If an imported product contains, for example, celery, it must not be listed in the summary statement, nor can it be bolded in the ingredient listing
- FSANZ requires processing aids containing allergens to be listed in the statement of ingredients with the words ‘processing aid’ in conjunction with the required name of the allergen concerned
- The allergen would also be declared in the summary statement
- Businesses have 3 years from 25 February 2021 to implement the new requirements. During this transition period, food businesses can comply with either the existing allergen declaration requirements in the Code, or the new requirements
- Any food packaged and labelled with existing allergen declarations before the end of the transition period may be sold for up to 2 years after the end of the transition period
- FSANZ has said it will develop communication messages to alert industry, consumers and health professionals to the new labelling requirements
Zubi customers can be reassured the software will never be out-of-date. Being cloud-based, changes are rolled out regularly. Updates to label formatting will be live in ample time for customers to ensure compliance with the updated regulations – some are already in place.