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December legislation Only 3 months to go

New laws for the foodservice industry will be coming into effect on 13 December 2014. From this date, any establishment or supplier providing food products will need to label these products, ensuring that food allergens are listed and highlighted. In addition, where foods are offered for sale to the final consumer without packaging (i.e. restaurants, pubs, cafés etc), information about allergenic ingredients will be mandatory and must be provided. Caroline Benjamin, The Food Allergy Training Consultancy, answers some of the industry’s most frequently asked questions

Allergen_expertBilled as ‘the biggest change in food safety legislation since 2005’, these regulations will affect all sectors of the foodservice industry and are already, understandably, causing concern to many operators. The legislation is not going to disappear so needs to be tackled head on.

What types of food allergies are there?

There are currently 14 main food allergens listed by the EU FIR 1169/2011.

  1. Gluten-containing cereals
  2. Crustaceans
  3. Molluscs
  4. Fish
  5. Peanuts#
  6. Lupin
  7. Tree nuts (such as walnut, hazelnut, almond etc.)
  8. Soya
  9. Eggs
  10. Milk
  11. Celery
  12. Mustard
  13. Sesame
  14. Sulphur dioxide*

# Although peanuts are legumes (like beans, peas, chickpeas) rather than nuts, allergen labelling law states peanuts are one of the 14 allergens that must be declared on labelling; nuts (collectively – e.g. brazils, hazelnuts) are another. People may react to one, or the other, or both.

* At levels above 10mg/kg, or 10 mg/litre, expressed as SO2

What happens if a sufferer consumes something containing the substance to which they are allergic?

This can vary from person to person, from slight discomfort and/or a rash to severe anaphylactic reactions and possible death. It is for this reason that the EU is updating food labelling law.

Gluten_freeHow many allergy sufferers are there in the UK?

  • An estimated 21 million adults in the UK suffer from at least one allergy (Mintel, 2010).
  • Allergy is widespread in the UK. Millions of adults suffer from at least one allergy, with numbers continuing to rise. Each year the number of allergy sufferers increases by 5%, half of all affected being children.
  • 13 million people below the age of 45 have 2 or more allergies (Allergy The Unmet Need, 2003).
  • 10% of children and adults under the age of 45 have 2 or more allergies (Allergy The Unmet Need, 2003).
  • The UK is one of the top three countries in the world for the highest incident of allergy (The Allergenic Invasion, 1999).
  • 50% of children and young people have one or more allergies within the first 18 years of life (Journal of Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2009).

How many companies in the UK currently offer ‘Free-From’ menu options?

Currently this is an unknown quantity, there are many restaurants that offer, for example, gluten-free choices, however many have no knowledge of cross-contamination issues and how the allergen customer will be affected when served their allergen in error even in small quantities. Many large chains say they are able to offer a gluten-free menu, but the choices are very limited and staff training can vary depending on staff turnover and the size and nature of the company.

Shellfish_freeWhat are the current regulations to which food retail and food service companies have to conform?

Gluten-free labelling laws came into force in January 2012. This means that companies should adhere to the following guidance to label food products as described below:

  • ‘gluten-free’: at 20 parts per million of gluten or less
  • ‘very low gluten’: at 100 parts per million of gluten or less. However, only foods with cereal ingredients that have been specially processed to remove the gluten may make a ‘very low gluten’ claim
  • NGCI – this is not covered by the law and is for foods that are made with ingredients that do not contain gluten and where cross-contamination controls are in place. These laws apply to all foods, pre-packed or sold loose, such as in health food stores or in catering establishments.

The EU Food Information Regulations (FIR) (1169/2011) came into effect on 13 December 2011, and the allergen listing directive needs to be complied with by 13 December 2014.

What will the new regulations include?

The main changes affecting food sold loose or sold directly to the consumer by the person packing the food (known as pre-packed for direct sale) are:

  •  If the food contains any of the 14 allergenic ingredients listed on page 28, this will need to be declared to consumers. The declaration may be on labels, shelf edge, menus or verbally on request by the consumer (supported by written documentation available on request)
  • The presence of additives no longer need to be declared
  • The name of the food is not required under the European legislation but may be required by UK provisions.

Why are the laws changing?

The regulations are put in place to enable the consumer to make a safe decision when purchasing foods for their consumption, in relation to any food allergies they may have.

Nut_freeWhich companies will be affected?

The legislation covers ALL food supply business operators at ALL stages of the food supply chain.

Who is creating these regulations?

The European Commission.

Caroline Benjamin is a food intolerance sufferer from Eastleigh in Hampshire. Over the last 13 years, her experiences of eating out have resulted in minimal choice, high costs and a lack of knowledge on the consequences of serving food containing allergens. This, combined with the major changes to food laws, has seen Caroline establish herself as a ‘one stop shop’ on all things food allergy related. Caroline has created the Food Allergy Training Consultancy to help food businesses and venues improve their product offering and knowledge, and prepare for the major changes to EU food legislation.

The Food Allergy Training Consultancy is running workshops across the south. Individuals can register online at www.fatc.co.uk/events. Tailored in-house training and workshops are also available. Contact FATC for more information, and for a free 15 minute consultation.

Useful Sources:

Food Standards Agency
Trading Standards
Defra
European Commission - New EU law on food information to consumers
Freefrom food Awards – Michelle Berriedale-Johnson
Anaphylaxis Campaign

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