In the UK, much of the new EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation will came into force from 13 December 2014. The new rules were designed to make it easier for consumers to find food allergens and avoid them.
The new regulations mean that restaurants, cafes, takeaways, bars, hotels and independent food producers will now need to tell customers if their food contains any of the fourteen food allergens. Caterers, street vendors and pop-up vendors will also need to comply with the new law. Those who sell food online or via the post are another group of food producers who will also need to include more nutritional information on their food.
Which food allergens do consumers need to be told about?
On the list are common foods like cereals, eggs, fish, milk, nuts, peanuts, gluten and soya, which many people are allergic to. In addition, the list also includes celery, crustaceans, lupins, molluscs, mustard, sesame seeds and sulphur dioxide, which are less well-known food allergens.
Manufacturers of pre-packed foods have followed allergen regulations for several years. The new regulations will make it a legal requirement for food producers of non-pre-packed foods to do the same.
The introduction of the new regulations means that thousands of staff members will need to be made aware of the new standards. Avoiding cross-contamination when preparing food in kitchens. However, staff who cook food at the table will also have to be retrained.
In the UK, 1.5 million people have a full-blown food allergy. Admissions to hospital because of food allergies have increased by 500% since 1990. Every year, at least, ten people die, in UK hospitals, because of an allergic reaction to the food they have eaten.
The regulations are not likely to be properly enforced to start with, but it is hoped that they will eventually be adopted and followed. When that happens it should be much safer for people with food allergies to be able to eat out in EU restaurants and takeaways.
This is another example of the fact that understanding about food allergens and the impact they have on general health is growing. This reflects the fact that more people are finding themselves affected by food sensitivities.
If you want to eat out safely, our allergen friendly restaurant finder and eating out with food allergies guide will help.
You can also get an update of how well the food allergen law is being enforced in the UK.