Last week a group of chefs wrote to the Telegraph, attacking the new(ish) EU rules on food allergens. Aside from the cost of implementing the new rules, they also had concerns that creativity was likely to be reduced as a result, and that ultimate responsibility for allergies lay with the allergy sufferer.
To learn more about exactly what the rules mean for food service businesses, and how the rules can followed in a cost effective manner, we asked Joanne Osborn from MenuLab, the nutritional analysis business, to break it down for us.
According to MenuLab, "we are still finding companies that are not completely aware of what the allergen laws mean to them.
The new rules
The new legislation came into effect on the 13th December 2014 and it stated that any unpackaged food sold in the UK must have information about the presence of the 14 major food allergens. These allergens are eggs, molluscs, crustaceans, celery, milk, fish, treenuts, sulphites, soya, sesame, peanuts, mustard, lupin and gluten.
There was also a change to the labelling of pre-packaged food. All 14 major allergens have to be highlighted or emphasized if they are present in the food.
The changes will provide any allergy sufferers with information and warnings ahead of purchasing food. It allows them to enjoy dining out without worrying about having a reaction and potentially putting themselves in danger. Lets remember that 10 people (on average) in the UK die every year from eating undeclared allergenic ingredients.
The penalty for not complying with the allergen laws can be a fine of £5000+, as it is a criminal offence to not adhere to the new EU Law.
Although it might feel at first to be a bureaucratic nightmare, many food businesses are seeing this change positively as it will reduce the number of people suing restaurants and cafes and also opens up the market to new customers who in the past may have not eaten out simply because they were unsure of what is in the food. With up to 50% of people in Europe in the next 10 years developing a food intolerance, this is a large number of potential new customers!
Everyone in the catering industry is affected
The new law affects the entire catering industry, from small businesses such as coffee shops and fish and chip shops, to multi national food companies, selling food over counters or off the shelves - all retail and food service establishments are affected. The only exceptions to the allergen law would be instances such as a charity cake stall.
Complying with the rules
It is no longer enough to simply state whether their food ‘may contain’ a certain allergen. You must be sure. Details of any of the 14 major food allergens must be communicated clearly, either on a menu or as a separate information pack for example. Staff need to be fully trained too.
Making compliance cost effective
The most efficient way to comply with the law is to have a database of all the ingredients/ suppliers that you use. We have a large growing database of ingredients and suppliers and we can help businesses pull together a comprehensive list to make them compliant with the law. We will shortly be launching a mobile app that tracks, traces and reports allergens. It is quick and easy to use and is low cost.
How much will compliance with the new law cost?
The initial costs to the business for recording all the allergen information will vary dependent on the size of the business and the range of foods/ingredients they use. It is expected that once the initial allergen listings are put into place, the maintenance of this process should be fairly minimal, depending how often they change their suppliers/ ingredients for their recipes. As mentioned, we will shortly be launching a mobile app with a small monthly subscription charge that will allow food business to track, trace and record all their allergens in their recipes for less than £10 a month. It is simple to use, low cost and will free up food businesses to do what they do best – serve food!"
MenuLab is a low cost nutritional analysis business that analyses food and privides information on calories, fat and salt content. It also helps food businesses to supply the necessary allergen information to customers, in accordance with the new allergen law.
MenuLab exists to provide information. Information that will allow consumers to make informed decisions about what to eat. This is achieved from the careful step-by-step process of analysing existing recipes and providing an information sheet to businesses containing a breakdown of the fat, salt and calorie content of a dish. Visit www.menulab.co.uk for more information.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by QSRMedia UK. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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