The new EU rules on displaying allergen information for all food and drink come into force on 13 December. However, fewer than half of venues are prepared and many licensees are completely unaware they must provide the same information for beer and wine.
The main allergen risk for beer is gluten. Pubs will be expected to inform customers — who request the information — which cereals, such as barley or wheat, are present. Other risks include sulphite.
Lindsay Roper, training manager at Spirit Leased has been warning publicans to make sure their houses are in order. He said: “There are people who have it all under control, there are people who know about it but haven’t got round to doing anything yet and then there are people who say ‘what allergen laws?’. Even with those that know about the impact on food, most of them don’t know how it affects drinks.”
Steve Livens, policy manager at the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “The impact on the drinks side is not going to be as huge as it will be for food, but the general principle is the same — if a customer asks for allergen information, there has to be some way of communicating that. In terms of draught beer that means either having information on the pump clip or in the menu or it being available verbally. I am a little uncomfortable with the idea of it being done purely verbally because it is such a complex issue.
“Pump clips are probably the way forward — there is space on the back of the clip where the tasting notes go that could include allergen information.”
He added: “We are still waiting for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) guidance to come out. Time is running very short now. The latest Unilever research showed that 40% of venues were completely unaware of the laws, never mind implementing them. So we would hope for, and expect to get, light-touch enforcement.”
A spokeswoman for the Food Standards Agency said pubs would need to “signpost written or verbal information” for beer and wine served in a glass.
She said: “There is a great deal of information available to ensure businesses will be up to speed by December.”