Running a busy restaurant or takeaway business is hard work and it is often difficult to keep on top of all the important regulatory changes and requirements alongside already challenging working hours.
However, it is important that key requirements in relation to food standards and handling are adhered to, or you could face prosecution or potential closure from the Food Standards Agency.
In addition to regulatory breach, should a member of the public suffer a reaction without provision of adequate allergy information, they may seek compensation under the Products Liability section of your Takeaway Insurance policy.
Food Information Regulation
The EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (No. 1169/2011) harmonises food labelling requirements across all EU member states. Each country in the United Kingdom has provided applicable Food Information Regulations to implement the new requirements.
From 13th December 2014, a section of the regulations regarding food allergens in pre-packed and non-pre-packed foods came into effect for all food business operators (FBOs).
The definition of ‘Pre-packed food’ means food placed into packaging prior to being offered for sale that cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging. However, this does not cover foods pre-packed for direct sales, or food packaged at the customer’s request – for example, packaged pasta or other takeaway items.
What Are The Allergen Requirements?
The current EU requirements include:
- Allergen information and disclosure requirements for food business operators serving non-pre-packed foods – which applies to takeaways, cafes and other food sale businesses.
- New labelling requirements on pre-packed foods to emphasise certain listed allergens.
Why Were Allergen Requirements Introduced?
It is estimated that circa 2 million people in the UK, or 1-2 per cent of adults and 5-8 per cent of children suffer from a food allergy. According to Allergy UK, the number of hospitalisations caused by severe allergic reaction has increased 7-fold in the last 10 years.
The above figures do not include those with food intolerances, so the total number of people with food allergies and general sensitivity is likely to be much greater still.
An allergic reaction can be produced by a seemingly inconsequential amount of food, for instance, a fragment of peanut, a teaspoon of milk powder, or a single sesame seed. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild reactions, such as itching and rashes, to severe, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, wheezing, anaphylaxis (shock) or potentially even death. Approximately ten people in the UK die from allergic food reactions each year!
There is no cure for a food allergy. The only way to manage it is to avoid foods that cause an allergic reaction. Therefore, your Takeaway must provide clear and accurate information about allergen ingredients in your dishes and products.
14 Listed Allergens
Depending on the type of food you offer (non-pre-packed or pre-packed), your business must either properly label or disclose the presence of 14 major allergens:
- Cereals containing gluten (namely wheat such as spelt, Khorasan wheat/Kamut), rye, barley, oats or their hybridised strains
- Crustaceans (such as crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp and prawn)
- Soya (Soybeans)
- Tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, brazils, pistachios, macadamia nuts or Queensland nuts)
- Celery and celeriac
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at a concentration of more than ten parts per million)
- Molluscs (such as mussels, oysters and squid)
From 13 December 2014, it was made mandatory that all restaurants, Takeaways or other FBOs providing non-pre-packed foods, must provide information to customers on certain allergenic ingredients. It is no longer sufficient to simply say that their foods may contain allergens or that they do not know if their food contains any. Allergen information must be accurate, complete and available for each specific food. This can be done by:
- Supplying the allergen information - typically on menus, chalk or menu wallboards
- Having an appropriate staff member verbally disclose the information
- Using other formats made available to the consumer
If the allergen information is written, it should be clear and conspicuous, easily visible and legible. Even If the allergen information is disclosed verbally, it is still necessary to use a written notice than can be easily seen, stating that the information can be obtained by asking a staff member.
While most Takeaway establishments will not have traditionally provided packaged food, it is now becoming more common in an effort to diversify income streams.
From 13th December 2014, labelling requirements were extended to include emphasise whether the food contains certain allergens. This means using a contrasting font size, style or colour to emphasise the 14 listed allergens from other product ingredients.
Additionally, pre-packed foods must:
- Make sure the allergenic information is easily visible, clearly legible and not obscured in any way ( such as under a flap or in a crease)
- Ensure a font size of 1.2mm or more where the labelling surface is 80cm2 or more, or ensure a font size of 0.9mm or more if the labelling surface is less than 80cm2 or less (can omit ingredients list if largest surface area is 10cm2 or less and information is available at consumer’s request).
When Can I Find More Information?
More information on food allergen disclosure and labelling and other requirements of the Food Information Regulations, can be found at www.food.gov.uk/enforcement/regulation/fir/.
As well as familiarising yourself with requirements, it is good practice to ensure that all your staff are correctly trained and versed in allergies and ingredients. Should a customer ask one of your counter (or even delivery staff) for allergen information, they should feel comfortable enough to answer any questions or know where to find the correct information.
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