Following the Food Standards Agency (FSA) board backing mandatory full ingredient labelling for foods that are pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS), a study launched recently by Navitas Group has highlighted how confusion around existing allergen labelling puts customers at risk. Its research found that almost half (48%) of those who said they look for allergen information when eating out were not fully aware of the different labelling regulations around food freshly prepped and packaged in a food outlet for direct sale and food pre-packed offsite. This confusion comes despite recent high-profile tragedies linked to food allergens.
While 52% of people who look for allergen information do understand the different allergen labelling regulations, 23% thought that the labelling regulations for food freshly prepped and packaged in a food outlet for direct sale and food pre-packed offsite were the same. A further 25% were unsure whether the rules differed.
Currently, food classed as PPDS does not need to have a full ingredients label with allergens highlighted. Instead, it’s expected that customers themselves ask staff about possible allergens and that staff have received training around allergen awareness. The FSA believes that full ingredient labelling will deliver a significant improvement on current practices, and greater consistency by following the same labelling system that consumers are familiar with, as found on packaged food. Navitas’s insight confirms the need for this approach.
Over half (53%) of respondents who look for allergen information said they tend to look for such information on a label in the first instance, while only 24% said they would ask staff first. When asked directly about PPDS food, some 70% said allergens were an item of information they would expect to find on the label of a sandwich or food item freshly prepared and packed for direct sale. This was the most frequently cited option after the best before date (71%) and before the date prepared (65%), nutritional information (54%) and calories (50%).
Ben Gardner, CEO of Navitas Group, said: “Our research highlights just why there needs to be mandatory full ingredient labelling for foods that are pre-packed for direct sale. The current system is simply not consistent and causes confusion.”
The leading allergy campaigner Nathalie Newman added: “The recommendations that full ingredient labelling should be mandatory for all pre-packed food for direct sale to consumers is very welcome. It is reassuring for the allergy community to see that allergies are finally being taken more seriously, with food outlets hopefully listing all ingredients in the near future in order to protect customers with allergies.
“Clear labelling and a good understanding of the implications of cross-contamination, combined with robust procedures in place, mean that anyone with allergies can eat out more safely.”