The purpose of the new regulations is to make sure dining customers have all the information they require to make an informed decision about dishes based upon their ingredients and whether or not they have an allergy in respect of any of them. This, in turn, should reduce the risk of an allergy going undetected with the undesirable consequence of a customer falling ill and potentially having to be hospitalised.
There are 14 major allergens to which these relate and they are as follows:
Celery, cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, soya and sulphur dioxide.
Here are some tips to keep you compliant with the regulations:
- Conduct a risk assessment-style analysis of the dishes you offer and the specific ingredients involved.
- Develop clear written documentation identifying the ingredients within dishes that may give rise to allergic reactions.
- Fully train your staff on the importance of the identification of allergies and the potential medical consequences of failing to do so. Ensure that the training is specific to the dishes and ingredients within the premises in question and keep documentary records of the training.
- Make sure that the information is clearly communicated to customers through menus or other signage in prominent positions. Make it clear that staff are fully conversant with the issues and are happy to talk customers through the menu.
- Make sure that you have procedures in place to ensure that documents and training are updated when there is any change to the menu or the ingredients used.
- Make sure that the risk of cross-contamination is minimised through thorough cleaning and personal hygiene practices within the kitchen (such practices are very important in terms of general food safety compliance in any event).
- Have a clear written policy communicated to all staff in the event that something should go wrong. (Again, this ties in with general good practice in terms of administration of First Aid, calling of an ambulance, etc).
There has been a lot of publicity surrounding the issue of allergens and, therefore, you can expect enforcement activity in this area.
Make sure you are ready because the risks to the business will unfortunately come in the form of high fines in the event of prosecution but also adverse publicity in the event of problems, which may undermine the success of the business.