Some people are hypersensitive to certain foods and can suffer adverse reactions, which for some can be life threatening. Food hypersensitivities include food allergies, food intolerances, and coeliac disease.

Food safety is always a top priority for our industry and to inform allergic consumers, food allergen labelling is mandatory. Pre-packed food or drink that contains any of the 14 regulated food allergens used as ingredients or processing aids must be declared and emphasised within the ingredients list on a food label. There are different allergen labelling requirements for food sold loose (e.g. catering) or when sold pre-packed for direct sale (which is regulated via Natasha’s Law).

Food and drink manufacturers are very aware of the risk to consumers of food allergens, therefore take steps to manage unintended allergen presence and to control cross-contamination. When it comes to allergen risk communication, only after a thorough risk assessment, where there is a demonstrable risk of unintentional presence that cannot be removed through appropriate controls, should precautionary allergen labelling (e.g. 'may contain <allergen>') be used.

The FDF assists the UK food industry through its provision of a toolkit and technical guidance on allergen labelling and management (e.g. change management of allergen information, vegan claims; gluten labelling and free-from claims). We also support progress towards agreement of reference doses/thresholds to enable quantitative risk assessment for food allergen management. 


As one of the many FDF Committees and groups available for members' only access, the FDF runs the Allergens Steering Group (ASG) which provides members with the latest updates on food hypersensitivity policy and the opportunity to influence our policy positions and workstreams.

Updates & milestones

Campden BRI - Managing Food Allergens eBook

Campden BRI have published a free downloadable allergens e-book  titled Managing Food Allergens. This is a useful resource that will help with the understanding food hypersensitivity, allergen cross-contact, food allergen  labelling and the role of testing in food allergen management. It is known that majority of people can safely consume foods that cause adverse reactions in others, and for those with food hypersensitivities, and in particular food allergy, the risks can be life-threatening.  The e-book provides an overview of topics that will help to aid the understanding of dealing with foods that cause food allergy reactions. These are:

  • What food hypersensitivity is
  • How to identify sources of allergen cross-contact and manage them
  • The importance of food allergen labelling
  • The role of food allergen testing
  • How working with a partner can help you to manage food allergens

The FREE Allergens eBook is also available via the FDF Allergens Toolkit page.

Phase Two of the FSA's Food Hypersensitivity (FHS) Programme

The rescheduled Food Standards Agency (FSA) Board meeting took place on 26 September 2002, at which further updates were discussed on the agency’s plans for phase two plans of its Food Hypersensitivity (FHS) Programme. This set out the priorities, key activities, and proposed timetable for the FHS programme which covers September 2022 to April 2024.

The three priorities for phase two of FSA's FHS Programme are as follows:

  • Priority theme 1: Improving the provision of information for consumers, with a priority focus on the accuracy of information
  • Priority theme 2: Achieving a step-change in the knowledge, skills and food safety culture in the non-prepacked sector
  • Priority Theme 3: Continuing work on Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL) to improve the way PAL is applied by industry and its effectiveness as a consumer information tool

FDF member companies have full access to the ASG homepageASG documents, and FDF Allergens Toolkit.

IFST Resource on Allergen Analysis – Key Considerations

In August 2022, the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) published a new resource on “Allergen Analysis – key considerations (including gluten & food intolerance compounds)”. This information has been prepared by Dr Michael Walker FIFST, peer-reviewed, and approved by the IFST Scientific Committee.

It provides useful insight on: Purpose of analysis; Engaging with the laboratory; Sampling; Analysis; ELISA - Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay; Cross reactivity (false positives); Reference materials; PCR; LC-MS/MS; Biosensors; Complementary techniques; Quality assurance/Quality control; Food intolerance; Analytical considerations – food intolerance; Reporting; and References.

For FDF member companies, the above are some of the many topics discussed within the FDF’s Allergens Committee (ASG), and over the years this group has developed several food safety and regulatory publications, sharing best practice guidance with the wider food industry.

FSA Food Hypersensitivity Programme Update - June 2022

On 15 June 2022, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) held a Board meeting, which discussed updates on the work carried out as part of the FSA’s Food Hypersensitivity (FHS) Programme and the proposed approach for its next phase of work [Food Hypersensitivity (FHS) - Update on Workstreams and Recommended Next Steps]. The three priorities for phase two of FSA's FHS Programme are as follows:

  1. improving Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL) through a more standardised approach, more support for food businesses to apply PAL when necessary and improving allergen cross-contact risk management. 
  2. a new workstream to improve allergen management and information to consumers in the 'non-prepacked' sector (i.e. food prepared on request in businesses such as restaurants and takeaways).
  3. continued focus on improving our understanding of the causes and impacts of FHS reactions.

Also in June, the FSA published its Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL) research package which summarised the findings of its recent PAL consultation (to which the FDF responded to) and its research carried out with businesses, consumers and local authorities which informed the recommendations made to the FSA Board.

Then recently, as underpining research, the FSA publihsed its Provision of Allergen Information in the Out of Home Food Sector Report. This research was commissioned to understand the allergen information needs and preferences of people with Food Hypersensitivity (FHS) when eating in the non-prepacked food sector (also referred to the ‘out of home’ sector). One of its key findings was that both FBOs and people with FHS feel the consumer knows best about their FHS and the allergens they need to avoid, with both groups wanting further standardisation of allergen information.

FDF member companies have full access to the ASG homepage, ASG documents, and FDF Allergens Toolkit.

FSA Advice on the Use of Fully Refined Oils as Sunflower Oil Substitutes

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published an update on the ongoing shortage of sunflower oil caused by the conflict in Ukraine. They previously advised that fully refined rapeseed oil may be used by manufacturers to replace sunflower oil without updating ingredient labels in order to ensure food supplies are not interrupted.

In this latest update, the FSA has advised that the following other fully refined vegetable oils: palm, soyabean and coconut also be used in some products without changes to the label being made.

Food businesses must discuss their need for ingreident substiutions with their Local/Primary Authority for an enforcement derogation to be permitted.

The overal process of fully refining oils to remove impurities, also removes the proteins that can cause allergic reactions.


allergy and intolerance


'Allergen'-free and vegan claims guidance

This FDF guidance aims to inform both the food industry and consumers as to the difference between 'allergen'-free claims and vegan claims. This information aims to dispel any misunderstanding that a vegan claim automatically means a food product is safe and suitable for an allergic consumer.

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Change management of allergen information

This guidance outlines the actions a food business operator should consider when managing changes that impact the allergen labelling on pre-packaged products.



Gluten labelling guidance

This UK best practice guidance aims to provide advice to food business operators, irrespective of size, on how to label food products that include cereals containing gluten through review of the relevant EU and UK legislation and guidance.

More allergens resources


New guidance on change management of allergen information is published today

New guidance to help food and drink businesses of all sizes understand the actions they should consider when managing changes that impact the allergen labelling on pre-packaged products has been published by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

Read more

The FDF publishes guidance on 'Allergen'-Free and Vegan Claims

The FDF has today published 'FDF Guidance on 'Allergen'-Free and Vegan Claims'.

Read more

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