When someone asks you if a food contains a particular ingredient – always check. From 13 December 2014, food businesses will need to provide information about allergenic ingredients in the food they serve.
Are you prepared for changes to allergen information?
All food businesses need to prepare for the big changes to the information they must give customers about the allergenic ingredients in the meals they prepare and serve.
About 1-2% adults and 5-8% children have a food allergy; and 1 in 100 people have coeliac disease (intolerance to gluten) in the UK. In severe cases, food allergies can be life threatening or result in death.
If you are a food business, it’s vital that you take food allergies seriously, as a mistake or oversight could put your customers at risk and seriously damage the reputation of your business.
Unlike bacteria, food allergens cannot be removed by cooking – which is why good kitchen hygiene, separation and labelling of ingredients is essential when preparing food.
Why is food information so important?
There is no cure for food allergy or intolerances, so the only way someone can stay safe is to avoid the food they are allergic to. That is also why customers with a food allergy or intolerance need correct information from food businesses, to help them manage their condition and avoid foods which make them sick.
Big changes ahead for food businesses
The EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (No. 1169/2011) outlines big changes to the information food businesses must give to their customers about the allergenic ingredients in the meals they prepare and serve.
From 13 December 2014, all food businesses will need to provide information about 14 allergenic ingredients used in the food they serve. There are 14 major allergens which need to be declared:
- Cereals containing gluten namely wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat), barley, rye and oats
- Crustaceans like prawns, crabs, lobster and crayfish etc.
- Nuts namely almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio, cashew, Macadamia or Queensland nut.
- Sulphur dioxide or sulphites (where added and is >10mg/kg in the finished product. Often found in dried fruit and wine)
- Molluscs like clams, scallops, squid, mussels, oysters and snails etc.
This information will need to be provided upfront in writing (like on a menu or chalk board) or signposted to where it can be obtained in written or oral formats. Where allergen information is provided orally, it must be verifiable, accurate and consistent.
What is your responsibility?
Remember these key messages when dealing with dietary requests such:
- Make sure the information you provide is accurate
- Keep up to date ingredients information for any ready-made foods bought in
- When cooking, make sure you know what’s in the ingredients
- consider cooking oils, dressings, toppings, sauces and garnishes
- update this if you change the recipe or ingredients used
- Ensure your staff know of any changes to allergen information for the dishes provided.
- When making food for someone with an allergy, work surfaces and equipment must be thoroughly cleaned before use
- Avoid cross-contamination by using separate utensils, cooking oil etc.
- Always wash your hands before preparing any food.
Need more help?
- Templates, posters, leaflets and more can be found at: www.food.gov.uk/allergen-resources
- You can find your local food safety officer by visiting: www.food.gov.uk/enforcement/
- Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) is a practical approach, based on HACCP principles, to help small food businesses to improve standards, understand food safety, protect consumers and comply with the law. You can find out more here: www.food.gov.uk/business-industry/caterers/sfbb
This article has been contributed by the Food Standards Agency. Visit us at www.food.gov.uk