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Are you ready for the new allergen regulations?

Almond moon reg wrapped

We've been poring over the new Food Information for Consumers Regulation or FIR to see how this affects us as manufacturers, retailers and consumers.There are several new regulations from nutritional claims to country of origin. The change in allergenic ingredient regulation and, specifically "gluten free" is the subject of this blog.  

At Honeybuns we've been used to having to substantiate our gluten free claims in line with the European Codex Alimentaris for a number of years. From 13th December 2014 the rules in the UK will change again regarding the labelling of allergenic ingredients and gluten free foods.

As we produce pre-wrapped products in the main - it's currently about 80% of what we supply - the buck stops with us regarding due diligence. As it does for any other manufacturer of gluten free pre-wrapped products. Accurate labelling is critical as is the testing and maintenance of the "less than 20 parts per million" cut off point.

There will now be legislation applied to non-packaged foods; namely the retailer will need to be able to guarantee that any foods being sold as 'gluten free" do not exceed 20 parts per million of gluten and can be safe guarded against cross contamination in store. Keeping below this 20 parts per million level means the food can be recommended as suitable for coeliacs.

From a grass roots level we're hearing a lot of the bigger retailers and food service operators mooting the possibility of just sticking with buying in pre-packaged gluten free items. We think it'll certainly be challenging for any busy kitchen to be able to dedicate enough space (and air space) to produce safe, guaranteed gluten free food. I wonder if technology can help us here with the future development of accurate instant ELISA tests for gluten which can be quickly done before handing "gluten free" food to the consumer? Much like caterers have to test hot food for a safe core temperature? 

Loose food can of course be sold with the "no gluten-containing ingredients" or NGCI but this does not mean that they can necessarily be safely eaten by coeliacs.

Gluten free Snowy Hills large traybake

Snowy Hills Large Traybake

The 20% of the non- individually portioned and wrapped traybakes we supply as gluten free currently carry warning advice to the retailer. Namely that once the wrapper is off the product at the point of serving, it can become contaminated. I think that clear communication between manufacturers and retailers is vital. This communication can then result in clearer, more accurate information being given to the consumer. I think currently "gluten free" has been too vague a statement and often there has been a lack of deep understanding of possible contamination issues. For example, some food operators do not realise that separate toasters need to be used for gluten free items.                              

On the whole we think the legislation coming in will bring awareness of allergenic ingredients and cross contamination to the fore. We've taken on board the need for the food manufacturers to develop more hypo allergenic foods in the future.Anything that can make allergy sufferers and coeliacs' food safer has to be positive.I think all of us in the food industry would benefit from embracing this move towards a deeper knowledge of exactly what's in our food and how to keep our customers safe.

FSA logo

Helpful resources:

www.food.gov.uk

www.food.gov.uk/allergy-training

www.instituteofhospitality.org

www.sfbbtraining.co.uk

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