EU – Breaking news on allergens labelling

Last week we had great movement around this topic.

DG Sanco opened a public consultation on Guidelines relating to the provision of information on substances or products causing allergies or intolerances as listed in Annex II of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.

The consultation aim is to gather opinions from consumers and stakeholders about the draft document. The consultation will be closed on 4th January 2015.

For the pre-packed foods the rules are quite clear and the main topic is around gluten: the Commission suggest to emphasize not the word “gluten” but the name of the cereal (i.e. wheat, barley, …).

For non pre-packed food, the following Q&A give an idea of what is the line of the Commission and the space given to Member States legislation (see 44.2 FIC Reg.).

Can Member States allow, through national measures, the provision of information on substances or products causing allergies or intolerances used in the manufacture or preparation of a non-prepacked food, only and simply upon request by the consumer?

The provision of allergen information “upon request” is not to be considered as a “means of providing information’. However, in a spirit of a pragmatic approach, indicatively, national measures may stipulate that detailed allergen/intolerance information regarding the manufacture or preparation of a non-prepacked food may be given upon request by the consumer, provided that the food business operator indicates in a conspicuous place and in such a way as to be easily visible, 11 clearly legible and, where appropriate, indelible, that such information can be obtained upon request. This combination would already indicate to the consumer that the non-prepacked food
concerned raises issues relating to allergen/intolerances and that such information is available and easily accessible.

The guidelines should be read in conjunction with the legislation itself. The examples it contains are given for illustration only. The guidelines and examples given in the document cannot be regarded as official interpretation of
the legislation, this being the exclusive reserve of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Moreover it is not a final document, but is better than nothing for our food business operators  in light of the fact that in a week from now the FIC Regulation will enter in application.

Few days before the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a Scientific Opinion on the evaluation of allergenic foods and food ingredients for labelling purposes.

The Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA Panel) updated its previous opinions relative to food ingredients or substances with known allergenic potential listed in Annex IIIa of 2003/89/EC, as amended. These include cereals containing gluten, milk and dairy products, eggs, nuts, peanuts, soy, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, celery, lupin, sesame, mustard and sulphites. The opinion relates to immunoglobulin (Ig)E- and non-IgE-mediated food allergy, to coeliac disease and to adverse reactions to sulphites in food, and it does not address non-immune-mediated adverse reactions to food. It includes information on the prevalence of food allergy in unselected populations, proteins identified as food allergens, cross-reactivities, the effects of food processing on the allergenicity of foods and ingredients, methods for the detection of allergens and allergenic foods, doses observed to trigger adverse reactions in sensitive individuals and risk assessment methodologies that have been used to derive individual and population thresholds for selected allergenic foods.

The huge opinion (286 pages) has many interesting point, but cannot cut clear two of the main issues linked to the possibility to establish thresholds for labelling purposes: which doses trigger adverse reactions (too many variables) and which methods use to detect allergens.


Q&A to EU Commission – Seafood labelling frauds

Question for written answer
to the Commission 
Rule 117
Gilles Pargneaux (S&D) (17 th March 2014)

Traceability in the fish industry in France has been tested by the BLOOM and Oceana organisations, by researchers from Inserm (the National Institute of Health and Medical Research) and the National Natural History Museum and by Terra Ecomagazine.

These organisations joined forces in France to conduct a unique investigation into labelling fraud in relation to fish. Over the course of a year, ten regions were sampled and nearly 400 samples were collected from the refrigerated aisles of supermarkets, fishmongers, restaurants, ready meals and frozen foods.

The study showed that species substitution remains rare in France, with fraud at a level of 3.5%.

The results of this inquiry can be compared to similar studies carried out in various European Union countries.

In some countries, the level of labelling fraud is very high: 32% fraud in Italy, 30% of hake alone in Spain, 19% of cod in Ireland.

Can the Commission state whether it will soon draw up a European strategy to combat labelling fraud in the seafood sector?


Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission (20th May 2014)

The Commission is aware of the study mentioned by the Honourable Member. More generally it closely monitors the works undertaken within or outside the EU aiming to assess the magnitude of fish species substitution.

The available results lead to conclude that discrepancies between the real species and the information conveyed to the consumer occur to different extents according to the species, the countries and the place of the food chain. However they are sometimes detected in significant proportion.

Following the horse meat scandal the Commission has decided to undertake actions to strengthen the ability of the EU control system as a whole to detect and counter food fraud. A key objective is to improve the capabilities of the Member States which are responsible for carrying controls to verify that food products placed on the market comply with the relevant national and EU rules. It is also considered critical to facilitate administrative assistance and cooperation among national enforcers in the case of cross border violations.

In the particular case of mislabelling of fish species, the Commission is currently investigating the detection methods available in the context of official controls before deciding for any further action, for instance in the form of coordinated control plans in accordance with Article 53 of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004.

(Source: European Parliament)