Allergen information for caterers in the UK
Are you aware as a caterer in the UK that you are responsible for supplying allergen information to consumers?
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. This can be supplied on labels or in documentation accompanying the deliveries.
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.More recently, in 2018, an inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse in 2016 was widely covered in the media and the coroner was outspoken about the actions that Pret a Manger had not taken. However, Pret had adhered to the regulations regarding allergens, as the food is prepared on site. There are questions over whether Pret a Manger should have implemented more stringent information given the size of the business.
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, sold at a different site to that where it is prepared. 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. This can be done by a variety of methods, including signposting the consumer to where the information is held or annotating the menus. In the UK, there is a regulation (also known as Natasha’s Law) which requires all products prepacked for direct sale to be labelled with allergens and other information, as a minimum. This regulation has been in place since 2021.
% of allergic reactions due to molluscs
The allergens are:
• Peanuts (also called groundnuts or monkey nuts)
• Nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan, Brazil, pistachio)
• Crustaceans (for example, crab, lobster, langoustine, prawn, shrimp)
• Sesame seeds
• Celery (including celeriac)
• 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.
Avoid Cross Contamination
- Ensure that all staff wash their hands regularly
- Food containing allergens should be stored in dedicated containers solely 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
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 clearly labelled with allergy information, and the date of decanting and / 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 on site pre packed for direct sale or off site is fully labelled. There is more information here.