Public puzzled by allergen labelling

Three months ahead of the introduction of Natasha’s law, the public are still confused about allergen laws and labelling requirements.

Coming into effect this October, the new legislation will require all food businesses to provide full ingredient lists and allergen information on foods pre-packaged for direct sale in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Although eight in 10 people agree it’s important that new food legislation is introduced to protect those with severe food allergies out of home, nearly two thirds (61%) of adults were unaware of the new law’s existence, according to a survey by global standards organisation GS1 UK.

A fifth of Brits believe they have a food allergy – yet one in six are unable to identify any allergens within common food groups according to the study. Only 43% of those surveyed correctly identified tree nuts as an allergen in pesto, while just 48% knew tofu was made from soybeans and nearly a third did not know milk was the allergen in yoghurt.

The research found that social awkwardness means 62% of people do not feel comfortable asking about allergens in dishes when eating out and would rather ‘take the risk’ instead.

GS1 argued that although the technology exists to help customers access important information on allergens, businesses need to do more. “Natasha’s law is much-needed and will undoubtedly increase transparency in the food industry and protect consumers. Yet, our research shows that transparency should not be limited to pre-packaged items. Existing technology has the potential to drive transparency across the entire industry,” said Anne Godfrey CEO of GS1 UK.

One in four of those surveyed felt a code to scan food products would make allergens clearer when shopping – with 36% of Brits checking labels to check for allergens or food intolerances. This compares with 39% who check labels to see where their food has come from and 27% who check an item’s sustainability credentials.

“2D barcodes – like a QR code or DataMatrix – can hold significant vital information which, in the future, will empower a more responsible, protected and informed consumer,” added Godfrey. “Quick smartphone scans will be able to show a product’s allergens, environmental impact, extended producer responsibility and much more.”

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