Posts Tagged ‘May Contain’

Changes to Food Information Regulations in Wales (2013)

This post outlines the Food Standards Agency in Wales‘s response when I asked them what the 2013 changes to the Food Information Regulations for Wales entail. These changes relate to the information that consumers/purchasers of food are given with regard to allergens, within which nuts are inclusive.

Change #1 – Labelling of ‘Loose’ Foods

The Food Standards Agency’s response indicated that the main change will be the requirement of manufacturers to give labelling on ‘loose’ foods. It said: “This means foods from a take away, deli or coffee shop would all need to have allergen labelling.”

“However the regulations specify that this information can be given verbally, but businesses will have to have the information ready and available in an easily understood format when asked.”

Coffee

Allergens: Coffee Shops must Label Food or Provide Verbal Information from 2013 [Image Courtesy of MrTopf]

I understand this to mean that all packaged or unpackaged food or drink, whether bought in a restaurant or a shop, will have to be labelled unless the seller is able to give a definitive and easy-to-understand list of the allergen information on request.

In essence, nothing will change for the manufacturers who already provide one of these two methods of informing the customer.

But it is a great reassurance that unpackaged food is now subject to such scrutiny, because I would suggest that ‘loose’ food is one of the biggest concerns for allergy sufferers. It is certainly right for allergen information on this unpackaged food to be available just as it is with packaged food, whether this is verbal of via food labelling. It is a definite improvement in my opinion.

Change #2 – Information on Labels

The second main change to the Food Information Regulations in Wales regards how allergen information is written on this food labelling. I have spoken about the existing rules on this topic somewhat extensively in my previous two posts, but what changes are in store from 2013 onwards?

The Food Standard Agency’s reply said: “All allergen information now has to be in the ingredients list, with the allergen in every ingredient highlighted so allergen sufferers know what to look for.”

chocolate bars

Food Packaging: Chocolate Bars, for example, must Adhere to the 2013 Rules [Image Courtesy of david_pics]

“Although labels can still have an allergen box, they can no longer list the allergens within the box; only use it to signpost consumers to the ingredients list. These regulations only cover the labelling of allergens where they have been deliberately added as an ingredient in food, not the cross contamination of allergens in the manufacturing process.”

Therefore, where an allergen is an ingredient used to make the product, manufacturers can no longer state it  in the allergen section of the packaging, but can refer to the ingredients from here. There is no requirement to have an allergen section at all in these cases, but manufacturers must unequivocally state all allergens in their list of ingredients, regardless of whether they provide an allergen box.

But, as I interpret it, the rules regarding ‘accidental’ contamination, from a substance outside of the ingredients, have not changed. This means the May Contain labels that we have become accustomed to with nut presence will not disappear, as manufacturers cannot write these ‘accidental allergens’ in their ingredients lists because they are not exactly that – ingredients. I assume that the possibility of accidental contamination will continue to be listed in the allergen advice boxes on food packaging.

It is worth reiterating that these are the new regulations for Wales. There are changes for other countries also occurring in 2013, and the outline of the English changes can be found here.

I would like to thank the Food Standards Agency in Wales for providing me with the information about the Wales 2013 Food Information Regulations, and also details about May Contain labels as outlined in my last post. 

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Nut Allergies, Chocolate and Food Packaging at Christmas

Quality Street and Roses are freely passed around, Christmas pudding is brought to the table and the smell of stuffing fills the air. Nut allergy sufferers must be careful at Christmas.

There is great demand for chocolate this time of year, and people often try new brands or flavours. The ingredients of the chocolates are on the wrapper or box, but nut allergy sufferers might find food packaging unclear and this is a problem when buying at Christmas.

Below are some examples:

Unclear Packaging: May Contain Traces of Nuts

Unclear Packaging: May Contain Traces of Nuts

Ambiguous: No Nuts, Cannot Guarantee Nut-Free

No Nuts, but Cannot Guarantee Nut-Free

Factory Nuts: How Does this Affect the Product?

Factory Nuts: How Does this Affect the Product?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Manufacturers Use Unclear Food Packaging Text

These messages are frustrating when you see no nuts in the ingredients, and make you wary about nuts being in the product when you are probably safe to eat it.

The reason manufacturers do not state their products are nut-free perhaps lies with the complex nature of some allergies, where people have reactions without touching or even consuming a nut.

Claire Dunne, medic at Cardiff University School of Medicine, said: “With more serious allergies people are allergic to particles of nuts  in the air, and they have a reaction to it. It depends where mast cells are activated, in one place or everywhere in the body.”

In theory, there could be no nuts in the ingredients or in the manufacturing area, but nut particles could get into the product via the air. Unlikely, but a possibility, so manufacturers avoid saying their products are nut-free.

 

There are exceptions, three of which are from chocolate manufacturers you might not have heard of. One pledges nuts ‘definitely should not’ be in their ingredients, and two promise nut-free products.

 

Celtic Chocolates: Nine Tenths of the Way to a Promise

Celtic Chocolates, an Irish company west of Dublin, makes ‘nut-free’ products but falls short of stating it unequivocally. The ‘Nut Policy’ section on their website reads:

We do not use nuts in the factory and none of our ingredients contain nuts. We prohibit staff from consuming nuts in the canteen or bringing nuts on site and conduct spot checks to make sure this rule is adhered to.”

So far so good, but then comes a qualification:

It is our understanding that it is not possible to sustain a claim of ‘nut free’ in the same way as we do dairy/gluten/wheat free as the possibility of accidental contamination by airborne nut particles throughout the supply chain would have to be eliminated.”

 

In other words, you are safe to eat their products but they don’t state it in case there is an unlikely incident of air contamination. Nuts are simply not mentioned on the packaging of their FreeFrom chocolate bar range.

Nuts Not Mentioned on Bar

Nuts Not Mentioned on Bar

Celtic Chocolates: Bar from FreeFrom Range

Celtic Chocolates: Bar from FreeFrom Range

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take nothing away from Celtic Chocolates though. Their Nut Policy is clear, and what they are conveying, without quite saying it, is their products are nut-free. In Cardiff city centre, you can find them at two Holland and Barrett stores indicated on the map:

 

Plamil and Kinnerton: Nut-Free Promises

Plamil and Kinnerton are slightly more definitive in their claims. Plamil state on their FreeFrom chocolate packets: “Always made at our place where no nuts are ever used.”

They are less direct on their website in explaining their nut-specific allergy claims, but do state “Allergy management is at the heart of how we make our product”. They list nuts as one of the allergens this applies to. But to see ‘no nuts’ on the packaging is refreshing.

Plamil: No Nuts are Ever Used

Plamil: No Nuts are Ever Used

Chocolate: Bar from Plamil Range

Chocolate: Bar from Plamil Range

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kinnerton write on their products: “Made with the Nut Safety Promise”, which, if you look on the allergen information on their website, is very similar to that of Celtic Chocolates. They also say it is “absolutely stronger” than May Contain labels, giving a detailed explanation of how they physically separate nuts through segregated warehouses, staff clothing and mould washing units.

They do maintain: “There are no promises in life”, but they have had no incidents of allergic reactions since this segregation began in 1999.

 

Kinnerton Helping People

I contacted Kinnerton and spoke to Morganna James, who said she would ask the appropriate people to provide information about how their nut policy helps people. She replied: “It offers a peace of mind and this certainly comes through when we speak to nut allergy sufferers.

Nut Safety Promise: Kinnerton's Packaging Label

Nut Safety Promise: Kinnerton’s Packaging Label

“We are currently looking into how the importance of having the nut safety promise on our products motivates both nut allergy sufferers and non-nut allergy sufferers.

“People with young children who suffer from Nut allergies are always relieved to discover that Kinnerton and reassured by the Nut Safety promise.”

So, if you want to buy chocolate for someone with a nut allergy this Christmas, choose Plamil, Kinnerton or Celtic Chocolates. Again, head to Holland and Barrett for Plamil, while Kinnerton products are widely available.

 

 

In the interviews below, Cardiff residents Morgan and Henry speak about food packaging from different perspectives. Henry has a nut allergy while Morgan has Type 1 Diabetes. They talk about their allergies, their diets and their experiences of using ingredients on food packaging.

[Morgan]

[Henry]

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