Providing Food Allergen Information – what B&B owners need to know
The new EU Food Information For Consumers Regulation, which was published in October 2011, comes into force on December 14th 2014. For the first time suppliers of non pre-packed food, including caterers, will have to provide allergen information to their customers as a matter of course. Rachel Jones of A470 Training has written this blog post for me to explain what we need to do.
If you know anyone with a food allergy or intolerance you’ll understand that they have to be very careful about what they eat. We’ve all become used to seeing allergy information on food packaging, even if some of the “made in a factory which once made products containing nuts” type statements are not particularly helpful. This information means that people sensitive to certain foods can make informed choices about what they buy and eat.
We spend some time discussing allergens on my food safety courses, but until now the labelling rules have only really applied to pre-packed food. All caterers have had to do is provide honest information to customers if asked, and ideally to store common allergens (such as nut products) in sealed, separate containers to avoid cross contamination.
This is going to change on 13 December 2014.
The new EU Food Information For Consumers Regulation, which was published in October 2011, comes into force on December 14th 2014. For the first time suppliers of non pre-packed food, including caterers, will have to provide allergen information to their customers as a matter of course.
Before you panic, this doesn’t mean you’ll have to make any major changes and it’s not going to cost you anything (other than a bit of your time). Information can be provided verbally by a member of staff, or made available to the customer in written format – either on your menu if it remains pretty static, or a loose leaf file, on a noticeboard, or any combination that suits your business.
Now I appreciate that to some this might sound like yet another piece of health-and-safety-gone-mad-EU-red-tape to entangle your business, but actually the changes will simplify food labelling across the whole industry and provide simple, consistent messages to those with sensitivities to particular foods. In the UK at least 10 people die every year from food allergies, with a further 1,500 asthma deaths which in some cases have been triggered by a food allergy. Each year the number of allergy sufferers increases by 5%, and it’s estimated that by 2015 50% of Europeans will suffer from some sort of allergy (including hay fever).
I’ve been talking to some allergy sufferers and collecting their experiences for my new training course; I’ve heard some real horror stories about how caterers’ lack of understanding, or unwillingness to help, have led to life-threatening reactions and horrendous experiences. But I’ve also heard some brilliant example of caterers who have gone the extra mile and found that it’s brought them massive PR benefits and new customers as well.
Showing that you’re sensitive to your customers’ needs and professional enough to care about their health must surely be as good for your business as a 5* food safety rating sticker in your window, right?
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) will be updating and producing guidance to businesses over the next 6 months, so if you haven’t already done so sign up for their email updates and keep an eye on their website www.food.gov.uk.
One thing I’d definitely recommend is that you have a look at the FSA’s FREE online allergy training – why not get your staff to complete the module and keep a record in your Safer Food Better Business file to get one step ahead of the game. If everyone has a better understanding of the issues it will be so much easier for you to make the simple changes you need to comply with the new regulations.
You should be hearing from your local Trading Standards or Public Protection team soon about the change. I’ll also be helping clients prepare for the changes, so feel free to get in touch if you have any comments or questions.
A470 Training Ltd
01766 540869 / 07941 150236