The Food Information Regulations (FIR) will apply from 13 December 2014. It will require that food businesses provide information on the presence of 14 allergens (cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, molluscs, eggs, fish, peanuts, nuts, soya, milk, celery, mustard, sesame, lupin, and sulphur dioxide at levels above 10mg/kg or 10 mg/litre) when used as deliberate ingredients in foods not prepacked. However, there is flexibility as to how this information is provided.
This study will help the FSA and other relevant stakeholders understand the preferences and information seeking behaviours of those with food allergies and intolerances when eating out or buying foods not pre-packed, for example from a restaurant or a deli. It will also explore the impact that the FIR allergen rules will have on the quality of life of food allergic and intolerant consumers before and after the regulation applies. This will inform relevant advice, guidance and tools for both consumers and food businesses to ensure safer food choices can be confidently made.
The main aims of the research are:
- to understand the preferences of food allergic and intolerant consumers on the provision of 14 identified allergenic ingredients when buying and eating foods that are not pre-packed
- to understand the reported impact that providing information on these 14 allergenic ingredients for foods that are not pre-packed will have on the quality of life of the food allergic and intolerant consumer and provide a reassessment of this impact once the rules have been applied
The outcomes of this research will inform the development of clear advice, guidance and tools both for consumers and Food Business Operators (FBOs) regarding the 14 allergens as covered by the FIR.
The research will be split into 2 parts:
Part A (during 2014)
This involves a 4-phase programme of qualitative and quantitative research, which will inform the implementation of the FIR allergen rules before they take effect December 2014.
Phase 1: a scoping phase including a relevant literature review; the development of relevant quality of life measures for food intolerance; and a sampling strategy for future phases which will be informed by placing some questions on a YouGov survey
Phase 2: In depth qualitative research consisting of 75 interviews and diaries with food allergic and intolerant individuals (including parents and carers) from across the UK to explore information seeking practices and preferences for foods not pre-packed
Phase 3: A national survey that will characterise the prevalence of these preferences as well as establishing how they relate to measures of quality of life. This will include a broad range of questions being asked to approximately 500 relevant individuals.
Phase 4: A consolidation of the findings including a workshop to establish the feasibility of food businesses incorporating these preferences into their information provision practices.
Part B (during 2015/2016)
This will assess changes in the quality of life of the allergic and intolerant consumer. It will use relevant literature and replicate the methods used in Phases 2 and 3 above, to allow a comparison of results and outcomes before and after the implementation of the allergen rules.
In addition the research will provide an insight about the information being sought and circulated about the new rules and requirements and how official communications from the FSA and other relevant organisations are being cited and disseminated. This includes capturing and analysing consumer queries relevant to FIR implementation, including the content of relevant digital information exchanges on-line.