Manufacturers Advised To Avoid Free-From Labels

Food manufacturers have been advised to avoid “free from” labels, except in cases where the food has been produced for groups of allergic people. The report also highlighted gluten free foods as an exception to the rule.

Research has shown a rise in the popularity of these food types, driven, according to a study by UK based Mintel, by consumers that buy the products as part of a lifestyle choice and not because of allergies. The group has said that manufacturers should make the changes to avoid confusion for consumers.

Free-From Foods

Free-from foods have become increasingly popular in recent years. As well as an increase in the products available, you will also find Free-From aisles in most major supermarkets with a large range of this type of product. Even the TV show, the Great British Bake Off, will feature a vegan week, where contestants will not be allowed to use milk, eggs, or other animal-based products. A poll, conducted by the Vegan Society, showed that more than 500,000 people over the age of 15 identified themselves as being vegan.

Traditionally, free-from foods were offered for those with allergies and food intolerances. They included wheat-free and gluten-free, but the range has expanded considerably over the past few years.

However, Mintel, the UK based market research company, has said that this is no longer the case and that demand is being driven primarily by “lifestylers”. The group said that almost half of consumers are turning to gluten- and dairy-free foods, with more than a third regularly buying free-from food and drink products.

The Fedima Report

Fedima, the Federation of EU Manufacturers and Suppliers, has cautioned suppliers, however. They have said free-from claims should ideally be avoided, although they did make an exception of gluten-free foods, because the EU covers gluten-free food under EU Regulation 1169/2011, which states that products containing fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten can be labelled as being gluten free.

However, while the Fedima report claims that manufacturers should avoid free from labels, it is easy to see why manufacturers are including these claims. 54% of people prefer free-from foods that include health claims, rather than those that don’t, which means that ignoring free-from labels could have a detrimental effect on sales and profits. As such, Fedima has also called for greater clarity from the EC, saying that they need to publish guidelines on what can, and what cannot, be labelled as being free from any particular allergen, in the same way that they define gluten-free products.

UK Consultation

The UK government undertook research into whether or not free-from products needed clearer labelling and more reliable regulations in 2015, because of the lack of EU wide rules governing this area of food production.

In particular, this research looked at the term dairy-free, because it was the most popular claim of this type. The consultation paper determined that most people were aware that dairy free meant that a product was free from milk and milk derivatives, although it also noted that some people mistakenly believed that it meant that the food was free from eggs as well. Respondents to the consultation dismissed the idea of calling food “milk free”, because they said there was the potential for confusion over whether or not this included milk derivatives and also whether it included non-dairy milk alternatives, like soy milk.

Current Regulations For Manufacturers

The EU only offers guidance for gluten-free foods. For a food or drink to be labelled gluten free, it must contain no more than 20 parts of gluten per million. There are no regulations for dairy or other free-from food types. A lot of manufacturers, consumer groups, and other organisations have called for greater clarity from EU lawmakers, and the UK Government has been looking at ways to improve food labelling and ingredient clarity after Brexit.

There are regulations regarding what should be added to food labels. You must include details of any of 14 allergens that are included in a product. If there is the chance of cross contamination, food labels should include this possibility, although experts have said that manufacturers should use risk assessment techniques to determine whether this is necessary for any particular food and specific ingredient.

It is also necessary to include a clear ingredient list, and you should also add nutritional values that are easy to understand. This means including details of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, and salt.

Manufacturers also need to take care when including any claims on packaging. As well as free-from claims, this means that you need to take care when using terms like “natural” or “homemade”. There are no stated definitions for these terms, but research suggests that consumers do not trust food and drink that does feature these claims. Health claims, on the other hand, need to be backed up by figures that confirm the claims.

Adapt With Label Line UK Products

There are a lot of regulations that currently need to be met on food packaging, and the situation continues to evolve, especially as the UK nears completion of Brexit. The government is likely to adopt most of the same regulations that the EU relies on, but there have been calls for clearer packaging for meat products, and also for those foods that do contain allergens.

In such a fast paced and constantly evolving market, adaptability is key to survival. Label Line can help your business adapt to any changes in food labelling laws. We can implement label printers and other coding and packaging systems that are fully adaptable. You can change the details included on packaging as and when required, and you can expand or decrease the volume of labels printed. Contact us today to discuss the products and services that we offer, and to see how we can help improve your food labelling efforts. Call us on 0151 546 2222 or email sales@labelline.co.uk to speak to one of our friendly and knowledgeable team.

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