What Is The Allergen Information For Loose Foods?
During our Allergen Awareness courses, we often get asked “What is the allergen information for loose foods.” We outline the requirements for the provision of information in relation to non-pre-packed food.
Over 1 million people in the UK have a food allergy and about ten people die every year from food-induced anaphylaxis.
Having a food allergy can make life extremely difficult, especially when food shopping or eating out. For some people, even the tiniest trace of food allergens can cause severe symptoms or even a fatal reaction. Common food allergens include nuts, shellfish, eggs and gluten but this list is not exhaustive!
New rules came into force in December 2014 regarding labelling of food allergens. On pre-packed food the presence of allergens must be emphasised on the packaging and on non-pre-packed food there is a new legal requirement to provide allergy information.
Foods which are non-pre-packed can be often described as foods sold loose. In a retail environment, this would apply to any foods which are sold loose from a delicatessen counter (for example, cold meats, cheeses, quiches, pies and dips), fresh pizza, fish, salad bars, bread sold in bakery shops etc. In a catering environment this would apply to foods ready for consumption such as meals served in a restaurant, café or purchased from a takeaway.
Under this new legislation, information on allergenic ingredients must be:
- written up front (for example on a menu or menu board) without the customer having to ask for information
- signposted to where written information can be found or obtained
- signposted to say that oral information can be obtained from a member of staff
Annex II to the directive specifies fourteen allergens that companies must provide information on. The list is available on the Food Standards Agency website. It is important to note that this legislation does not mean that a comprehensive list of all ingredients on a menu should be made available, but you must state if any of the fourteen allergens are present.
To help to identify which dishes contain allergens and avoid omitting important information from menus, the Nationwide Caterers Association has issued the following tips:
- Make sure that your kitchen staff use the same recipes every time, or make a record if a recipe change or an ingredient is substituted.
- Keep a copy of the ingredient information on labels of pre-packed foods like sauces, desserts etc.
- Keep ingredients in the original containers where possible, or keep a copy of the labelling information in a central place (either on paper or stored electronically).
- Ensure that containers are clearly labelled, for ingredients which are delivered in bulk, and then transferred or stored in smaller containers.
- Make sure that staff are aware of where this allergen information is stored and how it is kept.
- Ensure that the allergen information is kept up to date.
- Check that the food delivered is the same brand that is normally used, as different brands might have different ingredients.
It is no longer acceptable to say that a dish may contain allergens or that you are not sure if it does or not. The law now requires that companies are aware of the contents of their products and pass on this information to the consumer.
Make sure your staff are trained in the new legislation and understand the products you sell, especially the public-facing staff who will have to deal with customer queries regarding allergens. It is important that any information given verbally is accurate and verifiable. Giving either incorrect information or no information at all could result in the customer suffering an allergic reaction leading to your company being prosecuted for failing to comply with the law.