Food Allergy information - the new allergy rules and regulations
By Kevin Moyse
We are a little single-minded about producing professional takeaway menus using outstanding takeaway menu design and cheap menu printing. However everyone, from our takeaway menu design team to our menu printers, knows that your takeaway menu is just one important part of your takeaway business. We are interested in and care about every aspect of your takeaway. As such we like to keep ourselves informed about anything which might impact on you and the service we can offer you.
With that in mind, recent legislation regarding allergens present in any food sold to the public has been published which we thought we would outline for you.
On December 13th 2014 new laws came into effect requiring restaurants and takeaways all across Europe to inform all customers if any of the food they serve contains ingredients which are known to set off allergic reactions.
There are 14 allergens on the regulatory list set down by the Food Standards Agency. These are:
- celery - including any found in stock cubes and soup
- cereals containing gluten - including spelt, wheat, rye, barley
- crustaceans – e.g. crabs, lobster, prawns and shrimp paste
- eggs - including food glazed with egg
- lupin - in some types of bread, pastries, pasta
- molluscs - mussels, land snails, squid, also found in oyster sauce
- nuts - for example almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia
- peanuts - also found in groundnut oil
- sesame seeds - found in some bread, hummus, tahini
- soya - found in bean curd, edamame beans, tofu
- sulphur dioxide - used as a preservative in dried fruit, meat products, soft drinks, vegetables, alcohol (at concentration of more than ten parts per million).
What you must do
Under the new legislation (EU FIC Food Information for Consumers Regulation), customers must be told if their food contains any of these ingredients.
Takeaway businesses can decide themselves how they give the information on allergens contained in their food - for example through conversations with customers, leaflets, food labelling or by highlighting ingredients on menus and websites.
Research released by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Allergy UK has discovered that 70% of those with allergies avoid buying takeaways due to fears about allergens and a lack of trust in the information they are given. That’s a large market that can be tapped just by providing accurate information, so its not just law it really is in your best interest.
Food businesses such as takeaways, restaurants and cafes have been given a certain amount of flexibility as to how they provide allergy information. It can be communicated verbally through explanations by staff or signposted to where or how more information can be found on menus or in additional leaflets.
The key here is to make sure the information is openly available and consistent. Don’t panic though, because our menus have always covered this. Each of our menus carries the following information which at the moment this is enough for your takeaway:
‘for full allergy information please contact us before ordering.’
Dr Chun-Han Chan from the Food Standards Agency said:
‘All food businesses should be providing this vital information since December 2014...Information is available on the FSA website to help businesses with these changes. Businesses could be missing out on vital custom by not providing clear and accurate allergen information about the food they sell or serve... All of the material found on the FSA website is free to use and repurpose.
Verbal communication by staff members is obviously the most straightforward option but could potentially be unreliable, open to contradiction and human error. It would be wise to ensure that members of staff are all fully trained with the same information and are able to provide it clearly.
Additional leaflets are also a good idea but again there is the danger of inconsistency and not getting the message across to all your customers. This could leave you open to prosecution. Not to mention the extra cost to you each time you need to replenish your stock of leaflets.
We already add ‘for full allergy information please contact us before ordering’ to takeaway menus and websites as standard, but you must be able to provide full allergen information on request. The newly enforceable laws mean that a single generic warning to customers is not allowed under this new law (like “some dishes may contain nuts” is no longer acceptable). We will be upgrading our websites to include the facility to list the allergens which may appear in individual dishes, this will help future proof our system. Look out for the changes in the near future.
If you look at these new requirements from a marketing angle then adding the information to your takeaway menu could be an interesting opportunity and perhaps an option to bear in mind for the future. Once it’s there, it’s there (but always note that a change of ingredient could affect this so take care when adding allergen related ingredients as this information must be updated). It will go out with your takeaway menus to people’s homes, with the correct and legally required information on them. Your takeaway menus will not only fully comply with the new regulations but should drum up new business from those people with allergies who feared ordering in the past. In effect you are opening up a whole new customer base..
Can we help?
You can always have a chat with us about incorporating more information into your existing takeaway menu or if you feel the new requirements mean it’s time for a complete re-design of your takeaway menu, you can be sure Cheap Takeaway Menus’ menu design team will be happy to help you there too.
The law is quite specific about the presentation of information. For more information on the rules and legislation details visit the Food Standards Agency.
The new laws apply to all food businesses so its worth reading to give you a flavour of what is now required of you and to get your creative juices flowing in terms of how you will achieve this and make it work to your best advantage.
This is important stuff which has to be undertaken by all food providers. Failure to comply with the new laws will result in prosecutions and takeaways which continually fail to provide the necessary allergen information can be hit with fines of up to £5000. If an allergic reaction leads to a person's death you may be liable to prosecution for manslaughter.
You may not think that these new laws affect your takeaway business in any noticeable way but approximately 17 million Europeans are affected by food allergies and each year in the United Kingdom over 5000 people require hospital treatment due to severe allergic reactions. Some of these are as a result of incorrect or misleading information regarding ingredients.
So if you have to do this, why not do it right? Be that takeaway which attracts customers who are desperate for tasty takeaway food but have been put off in the past because of their allergies. Be the place they know they can order safely from, and come back to again and again. After all, isn’t that what you want from all your customers?