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Baseline study to investigate the provision of allergy information for foods sold loose

Institutions
Policy Studies Institute
Start date
2012
End date
2014
Objective

Stage I of this research focused on businesses selling foods that are not pre-packed. The primary research objectives were to establish the frequency and type of information provided on allergenic ingredients and the methods used to provide this information (for example via websites, notices, menus and face to face). Evidence was also gathered to establish what information was provided on cross-contamination of food allergens and ‘free-from’ labelling.

The research was carried out in these four stages:
Phase 1 involved a scoping stage with phone interviews conducted with consumer and industry representatives, food policy experts and local authority enforcement officers.
Phase 2 involved a baseline telephone survey of 1,666 food businesses, conducted with food businesses of all sizes across the UK selling foods not pre-packed. This survey comprised five sections which explored:

  • current information provision practices relating to food allergens
  • staff training on food allergens
  • changes anticipated by businesses to be able to comply with the new regulations
  • awareness of or exposure to any documentation or guidance relating to the provision of food allergen information
  • a short demographic section to conclude the interview

Phase 3 involved 56 market stall and mobile food outlets in nine markets across England. It was considered important to speak to market traders as they are likely to sell mixed ingredient food items, not pre-packed or pre-packed on site.

Phase 4 involved a qualitative follow-up stage of interviews with 25 food businesses selling foods not pre-packed, to gain deeper insight into their perceptions and experiences. It also provided an idea of the challenges associated with implementing new allergen requirements in foods not pre-packed, and the methods used to address these.

Stage II of this study aimed to establish in more detail the businesses’ barriers to providing information on the 14 allergenic ingredients to consumers. This was conducted in two phases: Phase 1 comprised in-depth telephone interviews with five stakeholder organisations. Phase 2 involved six focus groups with food businesses operating in a range of sectors.

More information

Background: The European Union Food Information for Consumers Regulation No 1169/2011 comes into force from 13 December 2014. It requires that information on the presence of 14 allergens, when used as ingredients in the products, should be provided for foods which are not pre-packed.

The allergens are peanuts, nuts, milk, soya, mustard, lupin, eggs, fish, molluscs, crustaceans, cereals containing gluten, sesame seeds, celery and sulphur dioxide. The three-year transition period allows food business operators to take the necessary actions in order to comply with the provisions.

Stage I of the research established what information is currently provided by food business operators on these allergenic ingredients when used in foods that are not pre-packed. It also established how the Food Standards Agency can support food business operators to comply with the new provisions.

In addition, the study explored the prevalence and type of information provided by food business operators about cross-contamination of food allergens. Stage II of the study explored the barriers businesses face in providing information on the 14 allergenic ingredients to consumers. The survey will be repeated in 2015/16 to establish how practices have changed when the rules on allergen information need to be applied.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project source
View this project
Project number
FS305004
Categories
Bacterial Pathogens
Commodities
Produce