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.

 

FVO Report – Organic production and labelling in France

This report describes the outcome of an audit which took place in France from 9 to 20 September 2013 in order to evaluate the control systems for organic production and labelling of organic products; a previous audit to France on the same topic was carried out in 1999.

There is an overall effective system for controls of organic production and labelling of organic products in France, while national provisions provide a clear legal framework for the implementation of organic production rules although some of them differ from the requirements as laid down in the European Union (EU) legislation.

Control Bodies (CBs) are not always accredited before being approved by the National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO). This is not in accordance with EU requirements, as accreditation according to norm EN 45011 may sometimes occur a long time after their approval. Although CBs have in general a sufficient number of suitably qualified and experienced staff, deficiencies in the performance of newly recruited staff without appropriate tutoring were noted.  Some controls carried out by the CBs were found to be ineffective. Differences in interpretation of analytical results for residues of pesticides and contaminants were noted between the CBs visited.

In some cases, the threshold for initiation of an investigation was not in accordance with EU legislation. In some cases, CBs did not immediately notify the Central Competent Authority (CCA) when deficiencies, affecting the organic status of the products, had been detected. In a limited number of cases enforcement was weak or missing.

Documentation, issued to operators, setting out their approval status is not published, which is contrary to the requirements of Article 92(a) of Regulation (EC) No 889/2008. As a consequence, those receiving product along the supply chain, those performing controls and consumers, cannot readily verify that suppliers and products have been appropriately certified.

In general, controls on labelling of organic and in-conversion products were effective. Traceability from retailer to the producer was satisfactory (in one case, identifying an ingredient erroneously declared as organic).

The French instructions delegate to CBs the administration of certain exceptions to organic production standards, which is not in compliance with EU requirements, whilst in other cases (e.g. mutilations) derogations have been granted countrywide without any effective control or verification.

Procedures for communication, co-ordination and co-operation between the CBs and the CCA, and among the different Competent Authorities (CAs), are in place, with the only exception being the French Paying Agency (ASP); with the effect that important information concerning controls carried out by the ASP are not being used to target or prioritise the controls operated by other
CAs.

(Source DG Sanco – FVO website)