The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has gone back on plans to issue guidance on the implementation of full ingredient labelling for pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) foods after listening to industry and CIEH concerns.
Questions have been raised over the workability of the current proposals and the legal definitions being used by the FSA – at the heart of this is what actually constitutes PPDS food. There are also concerns that if not implemented properly, the changes could result in more risks to allergic consumers and a huge rise in food waste.
Repeated calls to find solutions to these problems were made from experts including CIEH, but at the last minute the FSA agreed to push back its original 1 October deadline – when it had planned to issue its guidance – so that more time could be spent ironing out the problems.
While implementation of full ingredient labelling legislation remains 1 October 2021, the FSA will now publish its PPDS guidance, as part of the planned Technical Guidance, at the end of the year.
Kate Thompson, director of CIEH Wales who has a special interest in food safety, wrote to both the FSA requesting an extension and Defra. She wrote: “There is a consensus of opinion among our members, EH professionals working in both the public and private sectors, that there are still issues in relation to the definition of PPDS that need to be bottomed out.
“I would respectfully request that sufficient time is afforded for FSA lawyers and stakeholders to consider this matter further and explore further options."
Full ingredient labelling is being brought in for PPDS foods following the death of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who died from an allergic reaction to sesame after eating a Pret a Manger baguette in 2016.
Establishing whether food is PPDS is more tricky for catering establishments where some food is prepared ahead of time, while some is prepared fresh for the customer.
An establishment may both prepare sandwiches ahead of time – in which case they would fall into the PPDS category and would need full ingredient labelling – and also prepare a sandwich fresh on the request of a customer. In the latter case the food would fall out of the definition of PPDS so would not require full ingredient labelling.
This makes it confusing for both the business and customer – and the whole point of the regulations is to reduce confusion for customers with allergies. However, simply including previously exempted foods – which was suggested - throws up other problems.
Issues around display have also been raised with concerns that protective props used to prevent contamination would fall into the category of packaging and would therefore also need to be labelled. Caterers might therefore abandon their use, switching to simply putting food on a plate, which could expose it to contamination.
Concerns were also raised that partnerships with local charities that take unsold foods and distribute them among low-income groups and homeless will also be jeopardised under the current proposals. Social need for these charities is growing and at the same time, the Waste and Resources Action Programme estimates UK post-farm food waste is 10.2 million tonnes, with the hospitality and food service sector contributing one million tonnes.