Last reviewed 8 December 2021

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a consultation on the provision of precautionary allergen labelling and precautionary allergen information, such as “may contain” on many types of food sold in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

It points out that current labelling legislation requires that food products should indicate the presence of any of the 14 main allergens used as an ingredient or processing aid.

However, in cases where there is a risk of unintentional allergen cross-contamination (for example where multiple foods are prepared in the same kitchen), and the food business has established the risk cannot be sufficiently controlled, it is best practice for a precautionary allergen label statement to be used to communicate this risk.

This information can be communicated in a number of different ways. For example, on prepacked foods including chocolate bars, biscuits and other products that are sold in supermarkets and on food that is packaged at the same place it is offered or sold to consumers and is in this packaging before it is ordered or selected (prepacked for direct sale (PPDS)).

Although there are a number of labelling terms used, the most common phrase to denote the possibility of unintentional allergen cross-contamination is “may contain”, and the information can also be provided verbally, on signs, and on menus.

This consultation, which is open for comments until 14 March 2022, is intended to ensure that the relevant information is communicated more clearly and consistently, in an understandable and meaningful way to consumers, in terms of the form and content of the information.

It should, the FSA emphasised, be based on proportionate and standardised processes for assessing, managing, and communicating the risk of allergen cross-contamination by food businesses .

“Any solution has to be workable for food businesses and keep consumers safe without unnecessarily limiting their food choice,” it concluded,

See https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/consultations/precautionary-allergen-labelling-pal-the-may-contain-consultation for full details.