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.


Food recalls in EU/Week 40 – 2014

This week on the RASFF database (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) we have five recalls from consumers in EU in the alert notifications:

Allergens: undeclared soia in pasta e wholemeal pasta moose-shaped, following company’s own check. Origin Sweden (via Germany), notified by Spain, distributed also to Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, United Kingdom and United States;

– Allergens: traces of egg in chocolate fudge cake kit, following a consumer complaint. Origin United Kingdom, notified by Ireland;

Biotoxins: Diarrhoeic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) toxins – okadaic acid in canned mussels, following company’s own check. Origin Spain, notified by France;

– Pathogenic micro-organisms: Listeria Monocytogenes in soft white brie cheese made from goat milk, following company’s own check. Origin Denmark, notified by Denmark, distributed also to Sweden;

– Pesticide residues: fenamiphos in red grapefruits, following company’s own check. Origin Zimbabwe (via South Africa and the Netherlands), notified by Denmark, distributed also to Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Norway.

Between the information for attention, followed by a recall from consumers:

Food additives and flavourings: undeclared sulphites in soup stocks, following an official control on the market. Origin China, notified by United Kingdom.

Between the alert notifications, followed by a withdrawal from the market of the product, we find:

– Composition: unauthorised substance 1,3-dimethylbutylamine (nor-DMAA) in food supplement, following company’s own check. Origin Canada (via the Netherlands), notified by Netherlands, distributed also to Austria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland;

– Foreign bodies: glass fragments in potato starch, following a consumer complaint. Origin Poland, notified by Poland, distributed also to Germany;

Heavy metals: mercury in frozen blue shark slice, following an official control on the market. Origin Spain, notified by Italy;

– Heavy metals: mercury in food supplement, following an official control on the market. Origin Hong Kong (China, via the Netherlands), notified by Sweden.

– Packaging defective/incorrect: bulging packaging of canned olives, following company’s own check. Origin Spain, notified by Italy:

– Pathogenic micro-organisms: Listeria Monocytogenes in camembert cheese, following company’s own check. Origin Denmark, notified by Denmark, distributed also to Germany and Sweden;

Pesticide residues: carbendazim, omethoate, dimethoate and thiophanate-methyl in grapes, following company’s own check. Origin Tunisia, notified by Netherlands, distributed also to Poland and Russia.

Amongst border rejections we have:

– aflatoxins in peanuts from China and in apricot kernels from Uzbekistan, via Afghanistan;

– too high content of sulphite in dried apricots from Turkey and in sliced coconut from Lebanon;

– unauthorised substance dichlorvos in dried beans from Nigeria;

– cinnamon from Indonesia and salted horse casings from Argentina infested with moulds and insects;

– residue level above MRL for oxytetracycline in frozen seafood mix and frozen squid and shrimps skewer from Vietnam;

–  triazophos, acetamiprid, and imidacloprid in tea from Hong Kong;

– benzo(a)pyrene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in non-refined soybean oil from Ukraine;

– prohibited substance nitrofuran (metabolite) nitrofurazone (SEM) in frozen catfish from Vietnam.

For feed, we have border rejections for aflatoxins in birdfeed groundnuts from Brazil and Salmonella spp. in fishmeal from the United States. 

For food contact materials we have a border rejection for migration of primary aromatic amines from nylon serving tongs from China.

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