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Changes to Food Allergen Labelling – 3 Year Transition Period to Comply

19 March 2021
louisa dicker jason kaye nils versemann josh burland
Read Time 4 mins reading time

The labelling of food is an important regulatory obligation that businesses operating in the food manufacturing industry must be aware of and comply with.

In particular, the labelling and declaration of the presence of ingredients in foods that may cause severe allergic and other adverse reactions in some people is specifically referenced in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code).

In late February 2021, the Code was amended by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) in relation to an approved proposal to require mandatory food allergen declarations to be clearer, more consistent and in plain English. Given the significant practical implications of these changes, business will have a three year transition period to comply.

Prior to this change, the Code required certain foods and ingredients that cause severe allergic and other adverse reactions to be declared on labels when they are present in food. The new changes aim to remove potential misinterpretations, providing for simpler allergen labelling.

what is changing?

FSANZ’s decision means food labelling, regarding allergens, must be:

  1. In a specific format and location on food labels; and
  2. In simple, plain English terms and in bold font.

To achieve these goals, the Code sets out the new requirements in the categories below.



presentation

Food required to bear a label must now declare the allergens in:

    • The statement of ingredients; and
    • A co-located and distinctly separate summary statement.


format

The Code will also require food allergen declarations to be:

    • Printed in bold font that provides a distinct contrast with any other text;
    • Printed in a size of font no less than that used for other text; and

Provided as a separate word for each ingredient that is, or contains, an allergen.

The separate summary statement is to also:

    • Be printed in a bold font that provides a distinct contrast with any other text in the statement of ingredients;
    • Be printed in the same type face and size of type as the declarations in the statement of ingredients; and
    • Commence with the word “contains” and only include the allergens required to be declared.


terminology

In declaring allergens, food manufacturers must now declare mandatory terms of the allergen source, such as:

    • ‘fish’, ‘crustacea’ and ‘molluscs’;
    • ‘almond’, ‘Brazil nut’, ‘cashew’, ‘hazelnut’, ‘macadamia’, ‘pecan’, ‘pine nut’, ‘pistachio’ and ‘walnut’; and
    • ‘wheat’, ‘barley’, ‘rye’, ‘oats’ or their hybrids and ‘gluten’ if present.

why these changes?

The core aim of FSANZ in adopting these changes is to ensure that businesses have consistency when using and listing mandatory allergens in food products. Often, food allergen terminology can be technical and potentially confusing. Consequently, some consumers who read labels containing allergen warnings were unable to understand if potentially dangerous ingredients were present.

For example, children recently diagnosed with food allergies or those from linguistically diverse backgrounds may have difficulty in interpreting and comprehending current food labels.

when do I have to comply?

Businesses will have three years (being 25 February 2024) to comply with the new requirements and update their food labelling practises. In the meantime, FSANZ has outlined that food businesses may comply with either the existing allergen requirements under the Code, or the new requirements.

Following this three year transition period, a  two year stock-in-trade period will occur. During this period, any food packaged and labelled before 25 February 2024 with existing allergen declarations, may continue to be sold until 25 February 2026.

what should I do?

It is important for food manufacturers to understand and implement the pending changes. We recommend you act now to prepare your business to comply with these important food labelling changes.

Should you require any assistance, Macpherson Kelley has a dedicated Food Manufacturing team that can ensure this is done seamlessly and correctly. Please feel free to contact us to discuss any questions you may have in regards to your compliance obligations.

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Changes to Food Allergen Labelling – 3 Year Transition Period to Comply

19 March 2021
louisa dicker jason kaye nils versemann josh burland

The labelling of food is an important regulatory obligation that businesses operating in the food manufacturing industry must be aware of and comply with.

In particular, the labelling and declaration of the presence of ingredients in foods that may cause severe allergic and other adverse reactions in some people is specifically referenced in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code).

In late February 2021, the Code was amended by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) in relation to an approved proposal to require mandatory food allergen declarations to be clearer, more consistent and in plain English. Given the significant practical implications of these changes, business will have a three year transition period to comply.

Prior to this change, the Code required certain foods and ingredients that cause severe allergic and other adverse reactions to be declared on labels when they are present in food. The new changes aim to remove potential misinterpretations, providing for simpler allergen labelling.

what is changing?

FSANZ’s decision means food labelling, regarding allergens, must be:

  1. In a specific format and location on food labels; and
  2. In simple, plain English terms and in bold font.

To achieve these goals, the Code sets out the new requirements in the categories below.



presentation

Food required to bear a label must now declare the allergens in:

    • The statement of ingredients; and
    • A co-located and distinctly separate summary statement.


format

The Code will also require food allergen declarations to be:

    • Printed in bold font that provides a distinct contrast with any other text;
    • Printed in a size of font no less than that used for other text; and

Provided as a separate word for each ingredient that is, or contains, an allergen.

The separate summary statement is to also:

    • Be printed in a bold font that provides a distinct contrast with any other text in the statement of ingredients;
    • Be printed in the same type face and size of type as the declarations in the statement of ingredients; and
    • Commence with the word “contains” and only include the allergens required to be declared.


terminology

In declaring allergens, food manufacturers must now declare mandatory terms of the allergen source, such as:

    • ‘fish’, ‘crustacea’ and ‘molluscs’;
    • ‘almond’, ‘Brazil nut’, ‘cashew’, ‘hazelnut’, ‘macadamia’, ‘pecan’, ‘pine nut’, ‘pistachio’ and ‘walnut’; and
    • ‘wheat’, ‘barley’, ‘rye’, ‘oats’ or their hybrids and ‘gluten’ if present.

why these changes?

The core aim of FSANZ in adopting these changes is to ensure that businesses have consistency when using and listing mandatory allergens in food products. Often, food allergen terminology can be technical and potentially confusing. Consequently, some consumers who read labels containing allergen warnings were unable to understand if potentially dangerous ingredients were present.

For example, children recently diagnosed with food allergies or those from linguistically diverse backgrounds may have difficulty in interpreting and comprehending current food labels.

when do I have to comply?

Businesses will have three years (being 25 February 2024) to comply with the new requirements and update their food labelling practises. In the meantime, FSANZ has outlined that food businesses may comply with either the existing allergen requirements under the Code, or the new requirements.

Following this three year transition period, a  two year stock-in-trade period will occur. During this period, any food packaged and labelled before 25 February 2024 with existing allergen declarations, may continue to be sold until 25 February 2026.

what should I do?

It is important for food manufacturers to understand and implement the pending changes. We recommend you act now to prepare your business to comply with these important food labelling changes.

Should you require any assistance, Macpherson Kelley has a dedicated Food Manufacturing team that can ensure this is done seamlessly and correctly. Please feel free to contact us to discuss any questions you may have in regards to your compliance obligations.