Food businesses: are you prepared for changes to food allergen information?

 

The Highland Council Environmental Health Team is reminding food business of new rules which came into force over the weekend (13 December 2014) about the way they provide allergen information.

This reminder is being issued following an earlier newsletter sent out to all Highland food businesses earlier this year.

Previously, when, for example, supermarket bakeries, delis, cafes and restaurants sell loose foods, they didn’t have to provide information to customers about food allergens, but from 13 December all food businesses need to verbally explain or signpost allergenic information for the food they sell or provide.

Food allergies can cause life-threatening reactions and the numbers of people with this condition are growing.

The primary cause of food allergy deaths in the UK is due to allergic reactions when food is consumed outside the home where allergenic ingredients have not been declared. The new rules will mean that all food businesses will need to inform customers if any of 14 allergenic ingredients are present in the food they make or serve. This can be communicated to customers in writing on menus, verbally through explanations by staff or signposted to where or how more information can be found.

Although the new EU rules are coming into force in December 2014, they were published in October 2011, to give food businesses three years to get ready for the new provisions.

Patricia Sheldon, Lead Officer on Food Standards, at Highland Council said:  “All food businesses should be ready to provide this vital information. We understand food businesses work long hours, leaving little time to read through new guidance. However, easy-to-understand information is available from the Council or from the Food Standards Agency website, to help businesses with these changes.

“Businesses could be missing out on vital custom by not providing clear and accurate allergen information about the food they sell or serve. If any business needs advice and guidance on the new rules, they can get in touch with their local authority food safety officer for help.”

Dr Chun-Han Chan from the Food Standards Agency said:  “Food allergies affect approximately 5-8% of children and 1-2% of adults. This means that around 2 million people in the UK are living with a food allergy. People with food allergies can react to very small amounts of food, such as a teaspoon of yoghurt, a single peanut or even an egg glaze used to brush over pies.

“There is no cure for food allergies, so the only way for people to manage the condition is to avoid the food that makes them ill. This is where providing accurate food allergen labelling and information is important, and why food businesses, local authorities and the Food Standards Agency are all working together to ensure consumers have clear and accurate information.”

Local authorities are working together with the FSA to make sure businesses know what to do and how to provide safe food for those with food allergies and intolerances. To help enforcement officers and businesses with these new rules, the FSA has developed a range of training and education materials. Advice is available at www.food.gov.uk/allergy and resources can be found on www.food.gov.uk/allergen-resources

15 Dec 2014
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