From 13 December this year any business serving food must provide information on allergenic ingredients either in writing or verbally.
Guidance produced by the Food Standards Agency today stresses that anyone found guilty of an allergens offence could face a fine of “any amount”, to be decided by a magistrate.
The guidance says the information should be “easily accessible, in a conspicuous place, easily visible and clearly legible” to customers, whether or not they have a food allergy.
If the information is included on a menu it must include information for every item that contains any of the following 14 allergens: gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soybeans, milk, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame, sulphar dioxide and sulphite, lupin and molluscs. The FSA has produced a suggested menu design (left).
For a buffet allergen information should be provided for each food separately.
If the decision is taken not to include the information on the menu, other options include a chalkboard, information pack or advice given orally by staff.
However, the FSA has stressed that if staff are responsible for giving the information it must be signposted, verifiable in some way and consistently given. The guidance suggests nominating a staff member to deal with allergen enquiries.
All staff should receive training on handling allergy information request from their first day in the job.
To help identify which dishes contain allergens businesses are advised to make sure kitchen staff use the same recipes every time; keep a copy of ingredient information on labels of pre-packed foods; keep ingredients “in the original containers where possible” and file a copy of the labelling information. They are also urged to check deliveries to make sure all food delivered is their usual brand.