Food businesses must declare the presence of food allergens used as ingredients in their foods. In this section you will find the EU list of 14 allergens that must be declared and how to provide the information.
There are 14 allergens that must be declared by law:
- Cereals containing gluten - wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats. Note: The cereal name e.g., 'wheat', must be declared and highlighted, not 'gluten'.
- Crustaceans e.g., crabs, prawns, lobsters
- Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia/Queensland nut). Note: The name of the nut, e.g., 'almond', must be declared and highlighted, not 'nuts'.
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at concentrations of more than 10mg/kg or 10mg/L in terms of total sulphur dioxide) – used as a preservative
- Molluscs e.g., mussels, oysters, squid, snails
Note: there are some derivatives of these allergens which are so highly processed that they are not considered an allergenic risk and so do not need to be highlighted as allergens. View the full list of allergens and exemptions.
How to display allergens – prepacked food
The allergen must be:
- indicated in the list of ingredients with clear reference to the name of the allergen
- highlighted in a way that makes it stand out from the other ingredients. This could be through, for example, font, style or background colour, e.g.
Ingredients: Flour (wheat), sugar, eggs, milk, salt, raising agent: sodium bicarbonate
No list of ingredients?
Where a food is not required to have a list of ingredients, e.g., alcohol, the allergen indication must include the word ‘contains’ followed by the name of the allergen, e.g., ‘contains barley’.
How to display allergens – non-prepacked food
Food businesses must indicate allergens in writing for non-prepacked food at the point of:
- presentation, or
- sale, or
Non-prepacked food includes:
- foods sold in loose form, e.g., foods sold in restaurants, delis, cafés, canteens, takeaways, butcher shops, retail outlets, etc.
- foods packed on the premises at the request of the consumer, e.g., a sandwich made and packed into a plastic triangle for the customer
- foods packed on the premises for direct sale to the consumer or mass caterer, e.g., lasagne made in a café kitchen and sold packaged from a fridge in the café
In Ireland, the information must:
- be provided in written form in English or in Irish and English
- be easily located and accessible before the sale or supply of the food - customers must have the information before buying and must not have to ask for the information
- relate directly to a food or beverage so there is no confusion about which food it relates to. It is not acceptable to say ‘Our food contains…’. You must identify the exact food, e.g., ‘spaghetti bolognaise - contains milk, celery, wheat’.
- be in a legible handwritten or printed format
See our booklet Allergen Information for Non-prepacked Food for advice, options and examples.
Use of ‘May contain …’ statement
Use of a ‘may contain….’ statement, or similar, to indicate that the product may contain an allergen as a result of possible cross-contamination, must not take the place of good manufacturing practices (GMPs) in a food business.
GMPs must be in place to prevent cross-contamination. If it is not possible to guarantee no cross-contamination, even with GMPs, then food businesses may consider including this kind of warning statement to inform affected consumers.
Remember, allergens are considered a hazard and must be taken into account when developing the business’s food safety management system based on the principles of HACCP.
Food ordered remotely (by phone, website, app etc.)
For non-prepacked food ordered over the phone or via a website the allergen information can be provided:
- in written form before the food is ordered, e.g., menus, leaflets or online information used to order the food. It must also be provided, either written (e.g., via a receipt, leaflet, menu or other printed material) or verbally at the moment of delivery
- in written form at the moment of delivery if the information was only provided verbally at the point of ordering, e.g., via a receipt, leaflet, menu or other printed material.
See our booklet Allergen Information for Non-prepacked Food for examples
Oats are one of the 14 listed allergens. For oats to be called ‘gluten-free’ they must have been specially produced, prepared and/or processed in a way to avoid contamination by wheat, rye, barley, or their crossbred varieties and the gluten content of such oats must not exceed 20 mg/kg.
Where gluten-free oats are used as an ingredient in a food they can be listed as ‘oats’ or ‘gluten-free oats’. In either case ‘oats’ must be highlighted as they are considered an allergen. For best practice, food businesses should include a note for consumers explaining that although the oats are present and highlighted, they are gluten free due to the way they are produced, prepared and processed. For example:
Ingredients: Rice flour, potato flour, oats*, sugar, salt, spices
*Oats used in this product are gluten-free and have been specially produced, prepared and processed in a way to avoid contamination by cereals containing gluten.
Ingredients: Rice flour, potato flour, gluten-free oats*, sugar, salt, spices
*Oats used in this product are gluten free and have been specially produced, prepared and processed in a way to avoid contamination by cereals containing gluten.
Sulphur dioxide and sulphites
Sulphur dioxide and sulphites must appear on the label under their chemical names and not their E-numbers, and be highlighted, when present at levels exceeding 10mg/kg or 10mg/l in the final product.
The list of ingredients will show the additive category name (i.e. preservative) followed by the additive name, e.g., preservative: sodium metabisulphite. Listing the category name followed by the additive number is not sufficient. Therefore, it is not enough to label as preservative: E220.
Other allergens not on the EU list
Customers may have allergies to foods not contained in the EU list. However, it is only a legal requirement to indicate the presence of any of the 14 listed allergens when used as an ingredient in your food.
- Food Information on Prepacked Foods (booklet)
- Allergen Information for Non-prepacked Foods (booklet)
- Guidance Note 28 – Food Allergen Information for Non-Prepacked Food in Ireland
- Recording Allergen Information for your Dishes (booklet)
- Be Food Allergen Aware
- EU Information Document on Allergens (July 2017)
- Food allergy for caterers (Resource on safefood's website)