Full ingredients labelling ‘not the way forward’

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Advice given: the FSA has recommended pre-packed food should have full ingredients labelling (image credit: PJjaruwan/gettyimages.co.uk)
Advice given: the FSA has recommended pre-packed food should have full ingredients labelling (image credit: PJjaruwan/gettyimages.co.uk)
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has advised increased allergen information should be provided on pre-packed, direct-sale food.

UKHospitality has advised the Government should not act on the FSA’s recommendations because listing the ingredients would cause issues for operators.

Pubs that serve pre-packaged food should be aware the FSA board also set out key priorities identified as part of an ambition to make the UK the best place for food hypersensitive consumers, which includes those with food allergies and intolerances.

The board agreed on advice for Government ministers that full ingredients labelling should be mandatory for all pre-packed food for direct sale.

The FSA claimed full ingredients labelling would deliver a significant improvement and greater consistency by following the same labelling systems that consumers are familiar with as found on packaged food.

Extensive food labelling

FSA chair Heather Hancock said: “Food allergies and intolerance affects millions of people and its impact can be as big or bigger than almost all other food-borne diseases.

“That is why we have concluded more extensive food labelling is the right outcome to provide greater protection for consumers but introduced in a way that we can be confident will work.

“While it is impossible to eliminate the risks entirely, we consider this change along with other measures we are prioritising will deliver more effective protection for allergic consumers.”

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls outlined that customer safety is obviously a key issue for hospitality.

She added: “Consumers and policy-makers feel strongly about it and hospitality businesses are equally serious about the matter.

“That is why many businesses have already implemented their own measures to ensure customers remain safe and the industry continues to work with stakeholders, including the FSA, on the issue.

“However, full ingredients labelling is not the way forward. Creating an atmosphere where customers and staff feel confident discussing allergens is the best way to ensuring safety. The Government should not act on the FSA’s recommendations."

Significant issues

Nicholls said: “Full listing of ingredients is going to cause significant issues for businesses. The majority of hospitality businesses are small businesses and full labelling is not something that can be carried out accurately or effectively by chefs in a busy kitchen; nor can it be done by other members of staff who would need technical expertise to do so.

“Full labelling may also create a reliance on labelling that could prove to be less safe. There is the possibility of mis-labelling and no accounting for cross-contact which cannot be totally avoided. Not only is full ingredients labelling wholly impractical for some businesses, it may provide customers with a false sense of security.

“Some businesses, particularly smaller ones, may be put off making their own food on-site altogether and may resort to selling only pre-packaged food prepared off-site. This could lead to much less choice for customers and, as these products tend to go out of date more quickly, could exacerbate the problem of food waste.

“The best way to keep customers safe is by empowering them to talk to staff members with the confidence that the information they receive is accurate and useful. We should not be discouraging customers from discussing allergens by relying on labelling alone.”

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