Food Labelling Workshop with Clare Wood. Why is it important to take food labelling seriously?
At the end of February Taste of the West held back to back workshops covering food labelling and nutrition information with Clare Wood from Food Labelling Services. We were very kindly hosted by Taste of the West title sponsor Old Mill at their Exeter offices. Wayne Bastion, part of the Old Mill Food & Drink Team, attended the workshops and has given a round-up of the day.
Food labelling is becoming increasingly important for food manufacturers and is not something that should be taken lightly. This was emphasised in 2016 by the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse when she eat a baguette containing sesame seeds which were not declared on the packaging. Although, Pret A Manger were fully compliant with current legislation, it did heighten some weaknesses in the declaration system which are being addressed by Michael Gove.
Pret A Manger were compliant and have not faced any legal action so you may be wondering why I highlight this example when recommending you review your labelling. Well, it’s important to realise why you are required to get labelling right. It is to protect the consumer, not a tick box exercise for government regulation. None of us would want to cause harm to the end user regardless of whether you were compliant or not! In addition, there are the reputation effects of these cases. It is likely that the Pret A Manger brand will be tarnished for a long time which is likely to affect future sales. These investigations are not isolated either, in 2019 alone there have been recalls for Jumbo UK, Real Handful, The Village Bakery Markethill, Sogud, Sainsbury's and many more. Each of these recalls will be incredibly expensive to the supplier, recalls can cost £100k+ without considering packaging write offs and damage to the brand.
What do we think about the workshop?
The stand out thing to take away from the course is that Clare really knows here stuff and is genuinely interested in helping food producers. The morning over run slightly which is a real credit to Clare’s passion for helping the businesses in the room. Every question was answered from a knowledgeable view point and those that couldn’t be answered were taken away for further investigation.
On the day you will be given a comprehensive booklet which includes almost all the information you could ever want on food labelling. The booklet includes current regulation, allergen information, myth busting, worked examples, diagrams and group exercises. Clare talks through the booklet on the day, tailoring the presentation to the businesses in the room. Questions are welcomed and are answered straight away so you are not left wondering how the legislation applies to you. It’s amazing how many grey areas there are in the rules and so it’s great to have someone like Clare on hand to put your mind at rest or direct you on the correct path.
As well as informing the group of what is required on the labels, Clare also covers what you can leave out. She appreciates that everyone is trying to run a business and the last thing you want to do is give away all your secret recipe so that it can be copied by a competitor.
What are the key takeaways?
There are too many to list here but the single biggest reason for product recalls is getting the allergen declaration wrong. There are 14 recognised allergens in the EU including Cereals, Crustaceans, Eggs, Fish, Peanuts, Soybeans, Milk, Nuts, Celery, Mustard, Molluscs, Sesame Seeds, Sulphur Dioxide and Lupin. These should be declared emphasised through a typeset that clearly distinguishes them from the rest of the list of ingredients. You must include a line to say "For allergens, see ingredients in bold" (or whatever is applicable).
Given the complexities of the food labelling regulation, it is best to leave the rest to Clare!
Overall, this was a fantastic course. Not only do you get the details of specific regulation which is perfect for the technical people among us, but Clare also simplifies the regulations into great worked examples. Furthermore, she is happy to talk through the details of your product so you can see how the theory applies to you. Finally, if you are thinking that the course would benefit from real life examples then you won’t be disappointed either. Clare brings in packaging collected from supermarket shelves to emphasise her points and show you how information should (or should not) be displayed.
We would highly recommend attending this workshop whether you have concerns over your labelling or not. The last thing you want to do is print a new set of labels just to find out they need changing!
If you would like any specialist food and drink advice from the Old Mill Food & Drink Team then please contact Wayne.
If you feel that Food Labelling and Nutrition Information is something your business needs to work on then you're in luck, we will be holding these workshops again in September. To register your interest in attending one or both of the courses please email Rachel. If you would like anymore information on food labelling services, please contact Clare.