Allergen legislation: New FSA resources available

By Jo Bruce

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Allergen information, Asthma, Food allergy, Fsa

FSA guidance: Resources available include cards for customers to fill in with the allergens they must avoid
FSA guidance: Resources available include cards for customers to fill in with the allergens they must avoid
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) says it is confident that pub businesses will be ready for the introduction of the food allergen labelling legislation in December.

New information is available on the FSA’s website to help pub caterers prepare for the legislation​, which covers 14 allergens and requires businesses to communicate the presence of allergens in food and drink.

Information includes allergy training videos, a one-page fact-sheet that can be used as a staff training aid, artwork for the 14 allergens that must be identified to customers, and a 'Think Allergy' poster to highlight to front-of-house staff how they should handle requests for information.

Menu matrix

To help chefs, downloadable resources include an allergen menu matrix, which can be filled in on a computer or printed out and filled, in hard copy. This will help kitchen staff to log and check allergen information on dishes.

A chef’s recipe sheet is also available to create individual allergen menu records, which allow kitchen staff to log and check allergen information on one-off dishes, for example for 'specials' or when ingredients run out or are substituted on the day.

Other documents available to download include consumer 'Think Allergy' chef cards. The cards are for customers to fill in with the allergens they must avoid, and hand to staff, when eating out.

Food businesses can also print them out and leave them on tables for customers to fill in, if they wish.

Unilever research

Despite recent research by foodservice supplier Unilever Food Solutions that claimed that less than a fifth of publicans felt ready for the change, the FSA said it was confident that businesses would be ready come December.

An FSA spokeswoman said: “There is a great deal of information available through the FSA, Local Authorities, Consumer Groups and trade bodies to ensure food and drinks businesses will be up to speed by December. If any business needs advice and guidance on the new rules, their local authority food safety officer can help.”

She added: “There is a great deal of advice for food businesses on what they should do in order to get ready for the changes in December 2014. Pub operators and food businesses alike can find this information on the FSA website. The FSA will continue to work to ensure businesses understand the importance of the new rules so that they are prepared for December 2014.”

Comprehensive rules

The new allergen information rules cover all food and drink. Many beers and wines contain allergens such as wheat (gluten) and sulphites. The FSA guidance is that the presence of allergens would be labelled on the bottle or signposted to written or verbal information when served in a glass.

It is estimated that 1.92m people have food allergies in the UK and between 2011-12, there were an estimated 10 deaths and 4,500 hospitalisations due to food allergies and eating out.

Food for thought: points to consider from FSA Guidance

  • Oral information must be indicate clearly that such information can be obtained upon request. Oral information must be accurate​, consistent​ and verifiable​ upon challenge. When using oral information the business must be upfront in making it clear that allergen information can be obtained upon request ie, through a signpost saying that allergen information can be obtained from a member of staff.
  • Is there a process in place to enable consistent information to be provided? Refer queries to the nominated person(s).
  • Consider accessibility of mandatory information – eg, marked in a conspicuous place, easily visible, clearly legible.
  • Signposting is required when information is not provided written and upfront. It should be where consumer would expect to find allergen information eg, in a folder, on menu board, at till or on the menu card.
  • How are dietary requests communicated from front to back of house? eg, use of chef cards, order tickets, receipts.
  • Preparing foods for allergic consumers – what process is in place? Do you use Safer Food, Better business (SFBB) “Safe Method: Allergy”?
  • Are you making specific claims ie, gluten free? How is this claim verified or validated? Would no gluten containing ingredients (NGCI) statement be better? More factual rather than attributed to a set level.
  • Food businesses need to have processes in place to ensure the information they provide is accurate. Regularly review the ingredients information. Where ingredients change, review the accuracy of the recipe. Do your garnishes or dressings change the allergenic profile? Check!
  • Accuracy is dependent on correct labelling, updating allergen information, updating staff and consumers. These include the person buying the food, the person handling the food, the person taking the order and the person ordering the food.

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1 comment

Is product labelling sufficient on packaged drinks/food?

Posted by Graham Bell,

If so, is it also sufficient to offer the package, say drink or snack, and expect allergen sufferers to read the label?

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