In the UK, a new food allergen law has been introduced. These new labelling standards will be enforced from the 13th December 2014. Many firms have already changed the way they label their food to take account of the new regulations, but some are still struggling to work out a practical way to put the regulations into force within their business. This article is primarily for firms in this situation. However, it is also useful for those firms who have already introduced this labelling. For them, the article can be used to double-check what has been done and potentially find more efficient ways to follow the new regulations.
Who is affected by the new food allergy regulations?
First, it is important to understand which firms need to follow the new regulations. Food manufacturers who sell pre-packed foods already adhere to food allergen labelling standards. Provided they are already following the existing regulations, they will not have to make any changes to the way they work.
The new regulations are for any sole trader or firm that sells or serves prepared food that members of the public consume. For example, cooked meals sold by restaurants, street vendors, take away stores and cafes. This includes items like cakes, pastries and sweets. In fact, the law applies to any prepared food item sold to the public by a third party. In addition, all canteens, old people’s homes, hostels and hospitals also have to follow the regulations.
What allergens have to be listed by UK catering firms?
The new regulations apply to the following allergens: Lupin, molluscs, crustaceans, milk products (dairy), celery, fish, nuts that grow on trees, sulphites, sesame, soya, peanuts, mustard, eggs and gluten.
How and where do these allergens need to be listed?
Your menu must list the allergens that are included in each dish or food item. If you use a chalkboard as well as written menus, the information needs to be listed in both places. Any drink you serve that may contain one of the allergens also has to be labelled according to the new regulations.
You need to include this information in all your menus regardless of what language they are written in. Any oral statements you or your staff makes about the ingredients in your food must be backed up with a written statement.
How will the food allergen law be enforced?
Enforcement of the food allergen law is the responsibility of the owner of the establishment. It is up to them to make sure that the regulations are followed and that this is the case every time something changes on the menu. They also need to make sure that all staff are aware of the regulations. From a practical point of view, cooks need to be especially aware. They must not add one of the allergens to a dish to enhance it or as an alternative ingredient.
Buffet station staff also need to know what is in each dish. They need to be sure to use serving utensils for each dish to avoid cross contamination.
Food safety officers will check compliance. Failure to comply will result in fines.
Where to get more advice about the food allergen law
If you work for a franchise it is important to check with the franchise how they want the new regulations enforced. All business should also take the precaution of consulting with their local food standard enforcement officer to be completely sure that they are doing all that is needed to meet the new regulations.