Food allergies many caterers are breaking the law


Many foodservice outlets are breaking the law by failing to provide accurate information for customers with food allergies, according to the Anaphylaxis Campaign.

All foodservice outlets have been legally obliged to provide accurate information about allergenic ingredients in their food since the EU’s Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIR) came into force in December 2014.

However, awareness of the regulation is still low, and many outlets still haven’t trained their staff adequately.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” says Lynne Regent, chief executive of the Anaphylaxis Campaign.

Not a ‘nice to do’ – it’s the law

“It’s no longer a ‘nice to do’ – it’s the law. It’s vital that there’s appropriate staff training. They just have to make the funds available.”

According to FIR, all catering outlets – from high street delis and takeaways to high-end restaurants must provide information on the presence of 14 listed allergens if they are used as deliberate ingredients in foods that have not been pre-packed.

It means requesting a product ingredients list from suppliers, making this information available for customers and training staff to raise their awareness of the risks around working with allergens.

Some small businesses are still unaware of their legal obligations in this area.

“Every member of staff needs to understand the situation,” says Regent. They need to be aware of the issues related to handling ingredients and cross-contamination.”

Labelling and packaging are a challenge

FIR regulations have also impacted the wider food industry and allergen labelling and packaging controls are an ongoing challenge.

Around half of the Food Standards Agency’s allergen-based recalls are caused by product being placed in the wrong packaging. The other half are a result of incorrect labelling.

The FSA’s allergen-related product recalls rose from 47 in 2013 to 60 in 2015.

May Contain labels are also causing confusion for consumers. Regent called for a simplification of the current “unscientific” situation.

No May Contain label without a risk assessment

“It would be better if there was an agreement that companies didn’t use the May Contain label unless they’ve undertaken a proper risk assessment,” she said.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) recently added a new range of requirements around allergens to its Global Standard for Food Safety, which has been the basis of audits since the beginning of July.

They include an increased focus on allergen labeling and packaging controls, in response to the high rates of allergen-related food product recalls.

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