The countdown is nearly complete. By February 25 2024, all food businesses in Australia must meet the requirements of Plain English Allergen Labelling (PEAL) legislation. With the deadline fast approaching, it is time to summarise the impact of these new regulations and outline what is required from business owners.
Before we take a closer look at PEAL legislation and its impact on the food industry, let’s discuss the importance of effective allergen labelling.
Why Is Accurate Allergen Information So Important?
Providing accurate allergen information is not just a legal requirement; it is also a crucial aspect of customer service and safety. Mislabelling or underreporting allergens such as eggs, milk, peanuts and shellfish can have serious health implications for consumers, particularly those with severe allergies.
What is PEAL?
In February 2021, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) introduced new Plain English Allergen Labelling (PEAL) legislation as part of the Food Standards Code. A three-year implementation period was included, giving businesses until February 25 2024 to make the required changes.
There is also an additional two-year "stock-in-trade" period that allows businesses to sell products with non-compliant labels so long as the items in question were produced prior to February 25 2024. After February 25 2026, every food product sold must have a PEAL label.
These new regulations aim to implement a simplified and consistent allergen labelling system across Australia. PEAL legislation significantly changes how allergens are identified on food labels. It emphasises clarity and ease of understanding in allergen labelling, enabling consumers to make safer food choices. This shift is not just regulatory: it is a major step towards more informed and health-conscious consumer decisions.
How Does PEAL Legislation Impact Food Safety Supervisors?
Allergen management is a key responsibility for Food Safety Supervisors, and this is reflected in the training they receive to obtain certification. To align with state requirements in New South Wales (NSW), the Australian Institute of Food Safety (AIFS) has incorporated PEAL regulations into the Food Safety Supervisor course for participants in the region.
Incorporating these new PEAL requirements into the Food Safety Supervisor course ensures that supervisors are well-equipped to oversee allergen management in their respective food businesses. This training does much more than cover the basics of allergen labelling; it also educates participants about the practical aspects of managing allergens in various food service settings.
How Can Businesses Ensure Compliance With PEAL Legislation?
Food businesses are responsible for assessing the new requirements to ensure that all the relevant product labels comply with the law. Examples of these new requirements are summarised below.
Specific Names for Allergens
One of the most significant changes under PEAL is the requirement for specific, plain English names for allergens on labels. This ensures that the allergens are easily recognisable on food labels. For example, milk should be clearly stated as 'milk' and not hidden under less familiar terms such as whey, curd or casein.
Allergens in the Ingredients List
Under the new rules, certain mandatory allergens must be declared in the statement of ingredients and printed in bold font to stand out. This approach ensures that consumers do not overlook allergen information.
Allergen Summary Statement
Foods that require a label must declare allergens in both the statement of ingredients and a summary statement. This text should begin with the word "contains".
The allergen summary statement lists all the mandatory allergens present in the product. This summary must be near the ingredient list, enhancing visibility and understanding.
Transition Period and Compliance
Food businesses have been granted a three-year transition period followed by a two-year stock-in-trade period in which to implement PEAL requirements.
The three-year transition period ends on February 25 2024; any food items produced after this date must feature a PEAL label. Items produced in accordance with prior allergen labelling guidelines before February 25 2024 qualify for a two-year extension under the ‘stock-in-trade’ rule, giving businesses until 25 February 2026 to sell this stock.
Which Items Are Exempt From PEAL Regulations?
There are a few ingredients that are exempt from PEAL legislation.
Businesses should review Schedule 9 of the Food Standards Code for the complete list of allergens and exemptions.
Conclusion: Embracing PEAL
As the food industry adapts to these changes, Food Safety Supervisors play a pivotal role in ensuring compliance and safeguarding consumer health. Enrolling in a government-approved Food Safety Supervisor course is the first step towards ensuring your business is not only compliant but also a safe place for customers with food allergies.
Our Food Safety Supervisor course for NSW has been updated to provide the necessary knowledge and expertise to manage allergens and meet PEAL requirements effectively.
Register today or contact us to discover the benefits of AIFS Food Safety Supervisor training.