The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) is recommending that food business owners and employees review its recently updated technical guidance on food allergen labeling, which includes changes to advice on the use of Precautionary Allergen Labeling (PAL).

The updates to the guidance are intended to help businesses effectively manage allergens, and, through PAL, ensure greater safety for those living with food allergies and intolerances. Key updates to FSA’s recommendations for PAL use include:

  • Only apply PAL if an unavoidable risk of allergen cross-contamination has been identified by a risk assessment that shows the risk to be insufficiently controlled through segregation and cleaning
  • Specify which of the 14 major allergens PAL refers to, for example, using the phrase “may contain peanuts” rather than a generic “may contain nuts” statement.
  • Use PAL statements in combination with a “vegan” label where a risk of cross-contamination with an allergen has been identified.

The guidance clarifies that a “vegan” label communicates a different message than a “free-from” claim, which is intended to relay food safety information to different consumer groups. While a “free-from” allergen claim should guarantee that the specified allergen is absent, a “vegan” claim is not about food safety.

The guidance also goes into detail about why businesses should not use a PAL statement alongside a “free from” statement, and provides updated information on best practices for the use of “No Gluten-Containing Ingredient” (NGCI) statements for food businesses in the non-prepacked food sector.

The latest updates to the technical guidance is part of FSA’s ongoing efforts to prioritize food hypersensitivity work. In the future, FSA will work with international food standards bodies to influence the introduction of allergen threshold standards, and will continue to find ways to improve the provision of allergen information, such as standardization.