FSA seeks feedback on updated 'may contain' guidelines

14 April, 2023

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is soliciting feedback on updated advice for applying precautionary allergen labeling (PAL), commonly known as "may contain" warnings on food packaging.

The new guidance specifies that food businesses must indicate which of the 14 major allergens their PAL refers to, such as "may contain peanuts" or "may contain tree nuts," instead of using a generic "may contain nuts" label to comply with food law.

The FSA recommends that PAL only be used after a risk assessment to ensure that consumer safety and choice are not unduly compromised.

The FSA is also seeking input on proposed guidance that PAL should not be used for the same allergen that products claim to be "free-from." This means that a product labeled "dairy-free" should not also have a "may contain milk" statement.

These proposed changes were backed by more than 90% of respondents to the "May Contain Consultation" launched in December 2021.

Ben Rayner, FSA Food Hypersensitivity Team Leader, commented:

"While the use of PAL is voluntary, it is important that it should be as accurate and helpful to consumers as possible when it is applied.

This new guidance will help ensure businesses and those living with food allergies and intolerances get the greatest possible benefit from PAL.

We are committed to improving the provision of allergy information to consumers, and this is our next step in that process."

The revised guidance also cautions businesses against using No Gluten Containing Ingredients Statements (NGCIs), such as "this menu is designed for a gluten-free diet," due to concerns that they can mislead consumers.

The FSA advises that only "gluten-free" or "low gluten" be used instead. To provide feedback on the consultation, individuals may visit the consultation page.

The consultation will conclude on 222nd May 2023.

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