The Forum of Private Business (FPB) used Allergy Awareness Week (28 April – 4 May) to warn businesses to make necessary changes or face potentially serious consequences.
The organisation, which represents the interests of small businesses, said the extension of rules on highlighting allergens in the list of ingredients of unpackaged foods will have a significant impact across the entire food industry.
Currently, businesses selling unpackaged food are not required to declare the allergens.
Prompted by incidents
Jo Eccles, business adviser at the FPB, said a number of incidents have prompted the introduction of the new measures on food labelling.
She explained: "A recent case of staff in a North Yorkshire takeaway facing jail sentences after a customer died from an allergic reaction to his meal is just one example of how a relaxed attitude towards food allergies can prove damaging to a small business and its reputation."
"With less than eight months to go before the introduction of the new regulations it is essential that businesses put the necessary procedures and labelling systems in place or they could face stiff penalties, including criminal proceedings."
*The FBB has offered a number of steps business should take to make sure they are ready ahead of the deadline:
Monitor all ingredients used in their food, and categorise based on allergens.
Ensure that their suppliers notify them of any allergy changes.
Review each menu item to ensure that all allergens are described.
Store allergen-containing ingredients away from non-allergen-containing ingredients
Minimise the risk of cross contamination by using separate areas for non-allergen containing dishes.
Ensure all staff are allergen aware.
Further guidance is being developed by the Food Standards Agency and will become available closer to the implementation date. Around 21 million adults in the UK are believed to suffer from at least one type of allergy.