David Wilkinson - 11 Sep 2014

Food Labelling legislation….a sledgehammer to crack a nut allergy?

This December (13th) a new legislation comes into force concerning the labelling of all unpackaged foods.  From 13th all food outlets must be able to say if any of their dishes contain one or more of the 14 allergens specified in the new legislation.

For those of you who are interested they are;

  • Gluten
  • Crustaceans
  • Molluscs
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Nuts
  • Milk
  • Soybeans
  • Celery
  • Mustard
  • Sesame
  • Sulphur dioxide and
  • Lupin

It’s quite a big change from what we are used to.  At the moment chefs often say that they ‘didn’t know’ or that a product ‘may’ contain a certain allergen, but from December if a customer asks we are legally obliged to be able to provide accurate information.

The perplexing thing is that for such a huge piece of legislation the notification and forewarning within the industry has been extremely poor.  I can’t remember how I first came to hear about it but there has been very little official guidance about what to do and how it will affect your business.

We are very fortunate as some of our suppliers have been very proactive and kept us informed about what they are doing, plus the company we use to do our health and hygiene audits are now running courses on the subject (STS Solutions).  However when I speak to people within the industry the majority of them still haven’t even heard of the new regulations.

The new law will be of little consequence for big companies that have standardised menus and plenty of resources.  However I’m not sure how manageable it will be in for standalone, two chef restaurants where creativity and spontaneity is their mantra.  This could mean they have to fill in a new allergen sheet every time they tweak a recipe or add an ingredient….who on earth has the time to do this?

Looking long-term, I expect we will get used to it, much like we have we for all the other new legal codes we’ve experienced over the years.  This is just as well because in 2016 they will be extending the food labelling regulation to include the nutritional value of every dish. You have been warned!

I would like to make it perfectly clear here that I totally agree and understand that individuals should be confident in the knowledge that when they eat anything, it won’t make them ill.  On that note we will be publishing our 2015 menus within the next few months complete with allergen information so be sure to look out for this soon.

If you would like some more information on the allergen legislation;
Contact our health and hygiene audit company STS solutions; http://www.sts-solutions.com/ 
Visit the Food Standards agency web site at http://www.food.gov.uk/allergy 

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