From December 2014 restaurants and takeaways will be required by law to tell customers if any of the main 14 food allergen ingredients are in the food they serve.
These changes will mean consumers can feel more confident to ask about allergenic ingredients when eating out.
Food allergens can be life threatening and the only way people can manage a food allergy is to avoid the foods that make them ill. Mislabelling a food on your part could have catastrophic effects, such as causing serious harm to a customer as well as possible damage to the reputation of your business.
Food allergens cannot be removed by cooking. That is why it is essential to practise good kitchen hygiene, as well as careful separation, storage and labelling of ingredients when preparing food.
New legislation (the EU Food Information for consumers Regulation 1169/2011) came into effect for:
- labelling allergenic ingredients in pre-packed foods; and
- the requirement for food businesses to provide allergy information on food sold unpackaged, or pre-packed for direct sale, i.e. catering outlets, deli counters, bakeries and sandwich bars.
The 14 allergens which need to be declared are:
- Celery, Cereals containing gluten, Crustaceans, Eggs, Fish, Lupin, Milk, Molluscs, Mustard, Nuts, Peanuts, Sesame seeds, Soya and Sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites).
Businesses have been given flexibility on how they provide allergen information. This can be advised through explanations by staff or signage to advise where or how more information can be e.g. on menus or in leaflets, staff must know which dishes contain allergenic ingredients.
More information can be found on the Food Standards Agency website (external link) together with an allergy poster which can be used.