Food allergen legislation: eight things to consider
Gary Lynch, CEO of GS1 UK, a not-for-profit organisation whose services enable the efficient movement of goods and sharing of information and whose members inclide foodservice companies and food manufacturers, offers tips on making sure your business is ready for 13 December and beyond
Ensure the information you provide is accurate – mandate the provision of specific data, such as allergens, in the format you need it in from your suppliers, processors, agents or via wholesale distributors.
Dealing with new lines, new recipes and new suppliers – your food offering will inevitably change; in instances where specific allergen information is required, put processes in place to ensure that it is incorporated in all updates to communication outlets.
Standardise message delivery – make it easy for your customers by providing consistency in how information is communicated, such as wording used, font size, where they can obtain the information, method (chalk board, signage, menu other) etc.
Monitor compliance – perform audits or use secret shoppers to ensure compliance is both maintained from a legal perspective, and applied through clear and consistent messaging.
Educate staff – outline processes to ensure that all staff understand the changes, the need for consistency and the potential implications of getting it wrong. This should also be incorporated into new starter inductions.
Keep the customer satisfied – as this information will be a lot more visible going forward, staff will be expected to respond to customer requests for it quickly. The ability for staff to demonstrate clear understanding in this area may prove a differentiator for some businesses.
Provide a modern experience – look at using digital technology such as tablet devices to provide information – though relying solely on them for compliance would not be enough in instances of connectivity outages. Not only can this be a nice way to ‘show off’ to customers, it can also enable a quick method for updating information digitally when changes to recipes or menus are required.
Its about more than compliance – making the information available is just a legal requirement; having staff who are able to identify and deal with an allergic reaction should the worst occur provides a level of trust that can help set brands apart in the eyes of customers.
A range of courses have been launched to help make sure licensees and their staff are up to speed on the requirements of the legislation.
CPL Online has developed a new e-learning course on food allergens, entitled Allergen Awareness.
The course is designed to introduce learners to the rules and legislation around food labelling and catering in relation to food allergies and allergenic ingredients.
The BIIAB accredited course is delivered in five units; ‘Allergies and their effect in the body’, ‘Rules and Legislation’, ‘Labelling’, ‘In the Restaurant’ and ‘Responsibilities’.
At the end of the course participants will be required to answer thirty questions, 70% of which must be correct to achieve a pass.
David Dasher, CPL Online’s managing director said: "Being prepared for all eventualities is essential in any business, but even more so when legislative changes affect it. The new EU regulations regarding allergens will impact on any businesses serving food and so it’s vital for operators to ensure that their businesses and employees are compliant."
He adds: "Taking action ahead of the December deadline not only gives that peace of mind, but showcases those who are ahead of the game, as responsible operators."
For more information visit www.cplonline.co.uk
Hospitality e-learning specialist Train4Academy has launched a training module to prepare food handling staff for the new allergen laws.
Offered as part of the Train4Food Food Hygiene programme, the online module enables hospitality and foodservice employees to understand their new responsibilities under the Food Information Regulations 2011.
The allergens module has been accredited by both the CIEH and City & Guilds.
Janet Bridgewater, director of Train4Academy, said: "It is important that operators recognise this is an ongoing obligation for all food businesses. Whether or not all staff are fully up to speed by day one, allergen awareness needs to be permanently embedded into the business in terms of training and good practice in order to comply with the law.
A free-to-access course has been made available to pubs to enable them to meet the new food allergen regulations.
Run by Gaea Educational Systems, the HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) and Allergen Control online course teaches users how to prepare and handle food properly.
Gaea said the course is designed to help chefs “to think and to take responsibility for their professional performance”.
Resources include an introduction podcast to allergens.
While the course is free, there is an annual charge of £55 (plus VAT) if businesses wish to train staff in record keeping. There is also a small charge for certificates of completion.
Visit www.gaea.co for more information.
The free Food Labeller app
www.thefoodlabeller.com, developed by Jenny Ridgwell, who owns the Rose & Crown, in Fletching, Sussex, is a useful tool for pub caterers.
Users input their recipes and the app generates an information sheet and printable labels detailing which of the 14 main allergens they contain, as well as the cost per portion sold and their nutrition, including the familiar traffic light labelling.
The app is designed with small to medium-sized hospitality businesses in mind and is intuitively designed so that no instructions are needed.
The Food Labeller app helps businesses fulfil their legal requirement regarding the new FIC regs, but users have also found it valuable as a way of determining menu pricing and aiding communications between front of house and kitchen; if the information is available at the bar, the kitchen needn't be bothered by questions during peak service.