An Introduction to Food Allergies
What do my managers, supervisors and my staff need to know?
The Food Information Regulations 2014 came into force on the 14th July 2014 as the UK response to the European Food Information to Consumers Regulation No 1169/2011 (FIC). Under these regulations, a change to the existing enforcement regime has been taken forward with a move away from the across-the-board use of frontline criminal offences to a more proportionate and targeted regime using improvement notices.
The regulations require all food businesses to provide allergy information on food sold packaged and unpackaged, in for example catering outlets, deli counters, bakeries, and sandwich bars.
As managers of a food business you are now expected to be able to inform your customers of the presence of 14 prescribed allergens, which may have an effect on your consumers with a susceptibility to these allergens.
So, the first step is that YOU need to know exactly what ingredients are present in your products, so that you can advise your customers accordingly, and you also need to ensure that your product ingredients remain consistent in production, and that your teams don’t start getting “creative” and change them without your knowledge.
As well as the ingredients of your products, you need to be aware of the presence of any of the prescribed allergens in your kitchens or production areas, in order that you can advise customers who have a susceptibility.
So, why do food allergens matter?
Allergic reactions can make people very ill and in extreme cases can sometimes lead to death. However, there is no cure for food allergy. The only way someone can avoid getting ill is to make sure they don’t eat the foods they are allergic to.
If you work with food, it is important to take food allergy seriously. With the Food Information Regulations, you have a legal responsibility to provide the correct allergen information about the ingredients that is in the food you make or serve, to your customer.
Ignorance is no excuse, the change in the law means that you will no longer be able to say that you don’t know what allergens are in the food you serve. You are also not allowed to say that all the foods you serve COULD contain an allergen.
You NEED TO KNOW what is in the food you provide.
So, what are these allergens I need to be aware of?
There are 14 allergens that a Food Business must be aware of, and be in a position to advise customers of their presence IN the products, or their presence in the areas where the food was produced:
This includes celery stalks, leaves and seeds and celeriac. It is often found in celery salt, salads, some meat products, soups and stock cubes.
This includes crabs, lobster, prawns and scampi. It is often found in shrimp paste used in Thai curries or salads.
This is often found in cakes, some meat products, mayonnaise, mousses, pasta, quiche, sauces and foods brushed or glazed with egg.
This is often found in some fish sauces, pizzas, relishes, salad dressings, stock cubes and in Worcestershire sauce.
This includes wheat, rye, barley and oats. It is often found in foods containing flour, such as some baking powders, batter, breadcrumbs, bread, cakes, couscous, meat products, pasta, pastry, sauces, soups and foods dusted with flour.
This includes lupin seeds and flour, and can be found in some types of bread, pastries and pasta.
This is found in butter, cheese, cream, milk powders and yoghurt. It is often used in foods glazed with milk, powdered soups and sauces.
This includes mussels, land snails, squid and whelks. It is often found in oyster sauce or as an ingredient in fish stews.
This includes liquid mustard, mustard powder and mustard seeds. It is often found in breads, curries, marinades, meat products, salad dressing, sauces and soups.
This includes almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia or Queensland nuts. These can be found in breads, biscuits, crackers, desserts, ice cream, marzipan (almond paste), nut oils and sauces. Ground, crushed or flaked almonds are often used in Asian dishes such as curries or stir fries.
This can be found in biscuits, cakes, curries, desserts and sauces such as for satay. It is also found in groundnut oil and peanut flour.
This can be found in bread, breadsticks, houmous, sesame oil and tahini (sesame paste).
This can be found in beancurd, edamame beans, miso paste, textured soya protein, soya flour or tofu. It is often used in some desserts, ice cream, meat products, sauces and vegetarian products.
This is often used as a preservative in dried fruit, meat products, soft drinks and vegetables as well as in wine and beer.
So, how do I provide this information to my customers?
There are a number of ways in which allergen information can be provided to your customers. You will need to choose the method which is
best for your business and the type of food you serve. Details of these allergens CAN be listed clearly in an obvious place such as:
- A menu
- A chalkboard
- A customer information pack
It is not compulsory to display the information, however if the information is not provided upfront, you will need to signpost to where it can be obtained, either in written or oral formats. So this will involve making sure that ALL your serving staff are fully aware of WHERE to get the information, even if it is “talk to the manager”.
Keep staff trained and informed
Businesses should ensure, as a minimum, that all their staff are aware of the procedures and policies of the business when it comes to handling all requests for allergen information. All staff should receive some form of training on handling allergy information requests from their first day in the job .
As a food business, it is your responsibility to know which allergenic ingredients are present in the foods you sell. Where you have a group of foods such as cereals containing gluten and nuts, you will need to say what they are; for example wheat and almonds.
Make sure the allergen information is accessible to all staff and that it is kept up-to-date. If you use part-prepared ingredients, make sure you know what’s in them and make sure they are clearly labelled. When handling and preparing foods, consider the risk of allergen cross-contamination.
Who enforces these regulations?
The Food Standard Agency has responsibility for enforcement and regulation of all matters relating to food in England. Food safety and standards powers have been devolved to the National Assembly for Wales, and is managed by the FSA in Wales. The FSA in Northern Ireland is responsible for devolved matters relating to food safety, standards, nutrition, and dietary health in Northern Ireland. The safety of food in Scotland is governed by laws and guidance, covering everything from production to processing, distribution, retail, packaging, and labelling, and is managed by Food Standards Scotland.
Do you need help with Allergen Training or any other aspects of Food Safety?
Here at Universal Safety Solutions, over many years, we have concentrated on providing food businesses with a full range of approved Food Safety training solutions to enable them to meet their moral and legal obligations to customers and employees.
Are you interested in attending a Food Allergen Management course, or any other type of food safety course, or booking a course for your team members? Why not review our course schedule for forthcoming course dates, venues and costs. If you don’t see a venue or dates that meet your requirement or would like to have a course delivered in company then please contact us in order to discuss your particular requirements.
To book a course or for further information please visit our website, call us on 01684 851290 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Universal Safety Solutions Ltd.