Legislation concerning allergen information labelling came in on December 13th 2014. Getting it wrong with allergenic ingredients can be dangerous and, in some cases, life-threatening. That’s why proper food labelling is so important; you should be doing all you can to keep your customers from danger.

The rules expand on regulations on labelling for prepacked foods from October 2011 so that, from December 2014, you must provide allergen information in written or oral formats for non-prepacked foods.

To make sure you’re trading legally, you’ll need to highlight any of the following major allergens on labels or menus whenever they’re used as ingredients in non-prepacked foods and foods that have been prepacked for direct sale:

  • Celery
  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Crustaceans
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lupin
  • Milk
  • Molluscs
  • Mustard
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soya
  • Sulphur dioxide

You can find all the information you need in this handy leaflet that the Food Standards Agency has put together.

In the winter edition of Catering Quarterly 2014, NCASS members received a copy of a training poster, a poster of the 14 allergens and a sticker they can use to encourage customers to ask about allergens. Here’s a quick run down of how you’ll need to make allergens information available to customers. Info must be either:

  • Written up front, so customers don’t have to ask for information (e.g. on a menu)
  • Sign-posted to where written information can be found/obtained
  • Sign-posted to say that oral information can be obtained from a member of staff

Under the guidelines:

  • You can no longer state that you don’t know if an allergen is present
  • You can no longer state that all foods “could” contain allergens
  • Oral statements have to be backed up in writing if required

It’s a requirement for you to make sure that oral information about allergenic ingredients is consistent and verifiable. So basically you’ll need to put a process in place by which you can capture info from recipes/ingredients lists when products are bought in, and the info must be available for all staff.

The easiest way for you to do this is to go through each of your dishes and break them down step-by-step so that you end up with a full list of ingredients for every item on your menu. Then use your results to put together a handbook that details a full list of ingredients for each menu item, one by one. You should then highlight, underline or embolden any of the 14 allergens wherever they appear in your ingredients handbook.
 
We published all the important information in our last Catering Quarterly so if you need another pointer, that’s the place to go. Just make sure you’re ready in time for December 13th! Then concentrate on cooking the turkey.