Food Allergens The Usual Suspects
Deaths caused by foodstuffs purchased from large, chain food business have been all over the news recently and now concerns are being raised over whether current legislation on allergen supervision is acceptable at keeping consumers and business owners safe. It is crucial now more than ever that we do all we can to keep our customers safe from ingredients that cause serious reactions or even death.
In December 2014 the FSA made changes to allergen rules and legislation making it mandatory for caterers like you to be able to inform customers which of the 14 main allergens are present in the food you’re selling, also affecting the labelling of allergens in packaged food. The legislation states that the allergenic ingredients need to be emphasised using a typeset that clearly distinguishes it from the rest of the ingredients. Signs on the premises or unit are also compulsory so customers know what allergens could be in their food and to talk to a member of staff if they have an allergy.
“The allergenic ingredients need to be emphasised using a typeset that clearly distinguishes it from the rest of the ingredients. Food businesses can choose what method they want to use to emphasise the 14 allergens on their product label”
14 allergens that must be labelled are:
Cereals containing gluten
Milk (including lactose)
Celery (including celeriac)
As a food business owner, you must be able to prove that you are compliant with food allergen laws When an EHO or trading standards officer comes to inspect you. And trust me they will be grilling you on this one as its pretty much top of their agenda and rightfully so. Your allergen management should be unquestionable if you do the following:
Tell your customers
Put Allergen stickers and posters on your unit or premises in readable position to inform customers that they should ask a member of staff about allergens if they have a food allergy.
Write the allergens on your menu, include them under the name of each product. This will save a lot of questions if you state what allergens are in you dishes.
“Allergen information must be provided for non-prepacked foods in written or oral formats with clear signposting to where consumers can obtain this information, when it is not provided upfront”
Prevent cross contamination
We store allergenic ingredients in separate, sealed containers away from non-allergenic food-stuffs and labelled them. My guys that handle food are aware of allergen cross contamination. (also, this is covered in a level 2 food hygiene exam)
Make sure that your food prep staff use the same recipes every time. I always keep a copy of the ingredient information on labels of pre-packed foods like sauces, chocolate and dry goods. Once prepped we always label containers clearly. Also, its all well and good having an allergens sheet but your recipes might change throughout the year so I always make sure it’s kept up to date.
Train yourself and your people
You can’t just say that you do not know whether a dish contains any allergens and neither can your staff. Allergen information must be accessible to staff, so that they can answer any questions asked.
This is an obvious one but everyone who works in your business should be train in food hygiene and allergens are covered in this training.
You can download an allergen sheet directly from the Food standards agency website here, or If your with NCASS like us then you can get all signage and sheets from them, as well as discounted food hygiene training.
Use this sheet to identify allergens in each of your dishes so your staff can show it to customers. I keep 2 copies, one hanging up in my unit and one in my due diligence folder. I have trained my staff to sympathetically tell a customer that they can’t guarantee food is free from allergens and that they should not purchase a certain product.
Do further online training
You can take part in an online exam as part of an FSA initiative, giving you and your team some extensive knowledge on Allergens and the law. Register an account then sign in, You even get a certificate! Check it out here
It can be a bit daunting:
We’re a member of NCASS and they can sort a lot of this for you the Due Diligence System has a full Allergy and Intolerance policy to support you, they even have an Allergen Hub here.
Read up on allergen legislation on the FSA website.
Comment below and let me know what other things you’re doing in your business around food allergens.