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Sunday, 15 September

Give Us This Day Allergen Advice on Demand

New food regulations came into force today - some of which impact on organisations serving food who will now have to provide 'advice' to customers on whether dishes contain any of 14 potential allergens. Here we produce guidance from the Dept Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (section 17) are grateful to the Food Standards Authority for a quick guide for enforcers inspecting food premises: non-prepacked (loose) foods allergen information.

 

Dept Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

The information can be supplied on the menu, on chalk boards, tickets or provided verbally by an appropriate member of staff as well as in other formats made available to the consumer. It must be clear and conspicuous, not hidden away, easily visible and legible. If the information is to be provided verbally by a member of staff then it is necessary to make it clear that the information can be obtained by asking a member of staff by means of a notice, menu, ticket or label that can easily be seen by customers.

It is no longer enough for an FBO to say that they do not know whether or not a food contains an allergen listed in Annex II and deny any knowledge, nor is it enough to say that all their foods may contain allergens. Allergen information must be specific to the food, complete and accurate. This also applies to food prepacked for direct sale, such as from deli counters, bakeries or sandwich bars.

 

The 14 common allergens are:

Cereals containing gluten: declaration of wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan), rye, barley, oats and their hybridised strains)

  • Crustaceans
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Milk
  • Nuts: declaration of almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan nut, Brazil nut, pistachio nut and macadamia nut (also known as Queensland nut)
  • Celery
  • Mustard
  • Sesame
  • Sulphur dioxide or sulphites (where added is present at more than 10mg/kg)
  • Lupin
  • Molluscs

The Food Information Regulations 2014 (FIR) give powers to authorised officers to take action against breaches of the allergen requirements.

 

Legal requirements for food businesses
  • The legal requirements for food businesses are to:
  • Declare accurate and consistent allergen ingredients information to customers

Ensure the information of the 14 identified allergens, for the food they serve or prepare, is accurate and verifiable.

 

They can do this:
  • By being aware of allergen ingredients information for any food/ingredients bought in and by keeping this information up to date
  • By knowing what allergenic ingredients (including cooking oils, sauces, garnishes etc.) are used in the food they serve or prepare
  • With effective communication between suppliers, staff and customers. For example, if a recipe change leads to a change in allergen information, all staff tasked with advising customers will need to be made aware.

For relevant allergen tools for businesses, see: www.food.gov.uk/allergen-resources

 

Best practice

Allergen management is about knowing what is in food and controlling the movement of allergens to reduce or remove allergen cross-contamination.

 

Food businesses may wish to consider:
  • How allergenic ingredients are stored and labelled on premises
  • Removing or reducing potential cross-contamination which may arise from shared equipment (e.g. serving spoons, chopping boards and woks)
  • Thoroughly cleaning work surfaces and equipment

Thorough hand washing before preparing food 

 

Staff awareness/training
  • Are staff well trained in dealing with specific customer requests for allergen information?
  • Do back of house/ kitchen staff check ingredients labels for allergen information before preparing food?

Where food is provided to those who cannot make their own food choices (eg small children, those with learning difficulties or relying on a carer), is there a process to cater for and protect/safeguard them if they have food allergies?

 

Back of house to front of house communication
  • Do back of house staff keep a record of allergenic ingredients used in dishes?
  • Is up-to-date allergen information shared with front of house staff (especially when recipes or ingredients change)?
  • Are language barriers addressed to facilitate the exchange of clear and accurate allergen information?

 

Communication to customers
  • Do customers have access to allergen information in an appropriate manner (eg clear signposting or in writing/upfront on a menu/ chalkboard)?
  • Is the allergen information or signposting to how to obtain it, in clear view?

 

Dealing with emergencies

Finally, would staff know what to do if a customer were to have an allergic reaction on the premises?

 

Article written by Brian Shillibeer

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