Allergen information for caterers in the UK

 Food allergens are becoming an increasingly reported issue with a recent report from FSA highlighting that the most common foods that people reported having an adverse reaction to were cows’ milk and cows’ milk products (22%), cereals containing gluten (13%) and molluscs e.g. mussels, oysters (11%). Allergen information for caterers is primarily from their suppliers.

A prosecution brought in 2016 against Mohammed Zaman, the owner of several restaurants resulted in a sentence of 6 years after a man died from anaphylactic shock. The consumer had a nut allergy and had purchased a nut free curry. The owner had substituted an almond powder for a cheaper substitute.

Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers brings together rules on general food labelling and nutrition labelling into one piece of legislation. Most of the legislation is concerned with pre packed food, however, there is a requirement for catering establishments to provide information to the consumer if one of the allergens listed in the legislation is incorporated into food sold by the caterer, regardless of the size or nature of the business. This has been in place since December 2014.

Allergens fish molluscs crustacea

The allergens are:

•      Peanuts (also called groundnuts or monkey nuts)

•      Nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan, Brazil, pistachio)

•      Fish

•      Eggs

•      Crustaceans (for example, crab, lobster, langoustine, prawn, shrimp)

•      Sesame seeds

•      Milk

•      Soybeans

•      Celery (including celeriac)

•      Mustard

•      Lupin

•      Molluscs (for example, squid, octopus, mussels, cockles, periwinkles, snail)

•      Cereals containing gluten (for example, wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt and kamut)

•      Added sulphur dioxide and sulphites

Although consumers may suffer allergic reactions to other foods, it is those in the list which are required by law to be managed.

It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that the allergens on the list are highlighted on the packaging, and the responsibility of the caterer to ensure that the consumer is informed of the allergen. This can be done in a menu or by signage to indicate that the information is available, upon request. However, any information that is given must be accurate.

For specific queries, contact Alimenti, or speak to your local authority.

Allergens for caterers

  Avoid Cross Contamination

  • Ensure that all staff wash their hands regularly
  • Food containing allergens should be stored in dedicated containers soley used for this purpose. The containers should be sealable and easily identifiable and stored away from other food items
  • Clean and sanitise all food contact surfaces, food containers and utensils before and after use
  • Avoid spills and splattering while cooking, preparing and serving food
  • Use separate cooking and serving utensils for each food item
  • Where possible prepare food containing allergens in separate areas, or after foods not containing allergens

Dealing with customer enquiries

  • Ensure you understand the consumers questions and concerns
  • Answer all questions accurately
  • If you are unsure do not guess, tell the consumer that you do not know or find someone that does know the answer
  • If necessary check recipes and ingredient labels

Allergen ingredient check

Other ways of preventing allergen consumption

  • Use a recipe management system & never change recipes or substitute ingredients, without updating the recipe
  • Ensure decanted food is labelled with allergy information, and the date of decanting or use by date.
  • Ensure that service teams are briefed by the head chef or manager daily
  • Make sure that menu descriptions are complete and accurate
  • Ensure that any food sold off site is fully labelled. There is more information here.
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