New Requirements for Food Allergen Labeling in Switzerland

In the coming year, you will start seeing some changes in how food allergens are labeled in Switzerland. For people living with food allergies and intolerlances, for whom label-reading is a daily activity, here’s a quick summary of the new federal requirements.

Food labels allergens scottish oat cakes

Food allergen labeling on a package of Scottish Oatcakes from Northern Ireland (and in braille)


What is the purpose of the new Swiss labeling requirements for food allergens?

On November 25, 2013, the Swiss Department of the Interior and the Federal Office of Public Health revised the federal ordinance concerning the labeling of food allergens: Ordonnance du DFI sur l’étiquetage et la publicité des denrées alimentaires (817.022.21). These revisions mean that food labels must clearly indicate 14 common allergens by using a special font, character style (e.g., capitalized letters), background color or other appropriate means. Even though Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, these revisions are consistent with the requirements of Article 21 under the EU Labeling Directive.


When will these new requirements become effective?

The revised ordinance came into effect on January 1, 2014, but there is a 2-year transitional period. Companies have until December 31, 2015 to become fully compliant with the new requirements, or until they exhaust their inventories of food products that comply with the previous ordinance (see Chapitre 6: Dispositions finales, 817.022.21). As such, it’s possible you may still see products in 2016 that don’t meet the new requirements, but still can legally be sold to consumers.


What potential allergens must be labeled on food products in Switzerland?

There are currently 14 common allergens that must be identified on food labels in Switzerland. Please note: The 2013 revisions to the ordinance for labeling food allergens did not make any changes to this list.

  • Celery

  • Crustacean shellfish (i.e., crab, lobster, and shrimp)

  • Eggs

  • Fish

  • Gluten (i.e., wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt)*

  • Lupine

  • Milk

  • Mollusks (i.e., oysters, clams, mussels, or scallops)

  • Mustard

  • Peanuts

  • Sesame (FYI: There’s a new petition to include sesame among the required allergens for food labels in the United States).

  • Soybeans

  • Sulphur dioxide or sulphites

  • Tree nuts

*Please note: The category of “gluten” includes wheat, which is considered one of the “Top 8” allergens in the United States.


How did the Swiss government make companies aware of the new requirements?

The Federation of Swiss Food Industries organized a “food legislation continuing training day” in 2014, according to written responses I received earlier this month from an official from the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) at the Federal Department of Home Affairs. At this event, FSVO provided detailed information about the revised ordinance for labeling food products. In general, “companies are responsible for ensuring that their products conform to current legislation (self-monitoring).” At this time, FSVO does not have any information on the extent to which companies are currently complying with these new requirements.


Who is responsible for monitoring the labeling of food allergens in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, federal agencies do not have the responsibility for monitoring food products on the market, according to the written responses I received from an FSVO official. Instead, cantonal executive authorities fill this role: Contrôle des denrées alimentaires en Suisse. In particular, these cantonal agencies “are responsible for monitoring the conformity of food products that can be marketed without regulatory approval.” If you have questions or concerns about a particular product that may not be in compliance with the current regulations, you can contact these authorities for assistance.


Where can I learn more about the revised requirements for labeling food allergens in Switzerland?

For detailed information about these revisions in French, German and Italian, here are some helpful links from FSVO:

  • Revisions 2013

  • Communiqué de presse: Révision de la législation sur les denrées alimentaires : protéger la santé et éviter les tromperies (December 3, 2014)

  • Dossier de presse: Révision annuelle de la législation sur les denrées alimentaires—Les points forts de la révision (December 3, 2014)

 

In my opinion, it’s great seeing these new requirements for food labels in Switzerland and throughout the European Union. Anything that can help keep consumers safe, without creating an unnecessary burden on companies, seems like a welcome change.

Updated: January 15, 2015

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2 thoughts on “New Requirements for Food Allergen Labeling in Switzerland

  1. abltechnology says:

    You shared very useful information about food Industries that includes many important facts about it. I am completely agreed with your points because farming is the largest sector in Switzerland. Keep up sharing such nice information with us.

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