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Food Allergens Regulations

Bridget Holmstrom - Sunday, November 30, 2014

Food Information For Consumers Regulation 2014

New regulations are coming into effect on the 13th December that will impact upon all food service operations.  These regulations state that businesses selling food will have to provide detailed allergen information on menus, labels or ingredient lists.  It will not be acceptable for staff to say that they don’t know if asked whether food contains the allergens.  This includes not only pre-packed foods but also prepared foods as served in restaurants, pubs and many other operations.

In September 2014 a survey by Unilever showed that around 44% of all food service operations were not aware of the new regulations. 

The regulations have been brought into effect because an estimated 1 – 2% of adults and 5% to 8% of children have a food allergy.  Around 10 people die each year from allergic reactions to food every year.  5% to 8% does not sound very many but it means that up t0 8 children in every 100 will suffer from a food allergy.

The allergens that must be mentioned include gluten, eggs, peanuts, sulphites and celery.

Of most concern to small businesses is that there is no cap on the level of fines that can be imposed.

Some local councils have been proactive in giving guidance to those businesses impacted but there are others that have provided much less information for a variety of reasons.  However the continuing cuts to local government resources must be one of the explanations for this failure.  Given the imminent arrival of the regulations there must be a questions on how the regulations will be interpreted by the food agencies where there has been little or no guidance from the authorities.

Of those businesses that were aware of the regulations, one third felt unready, 85% would have liked some sort of handbook where they could find the guidance on how to best conform to the regulations and 44% felt that they need to provide more education and training to their staff.

There is help available from the various authorities including the Food Standards Agency which has the full details and some interactive training aids.

The British Hospitality Association also has information available.  Food suppliers and manufacturers should also be able to give customers advice on how to manage the implementation of the allergens information regulations.  You do have to join this organisation in order to access the toolbox.

Food Manufacture also has information available on their website.