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Allergy Awareness Week 28 April-4 May

Allergy Awareness Week 28 April-4 May

National small business group, the Forum of Private Business, is using Allergy Awareness Week to remind small food businesses of the need to prepare for the changes to food labelling from the end of this year.

Jo Eccles, business adviser at the Forum of Private Business, said: “A recent case of staff in a North Yorkshire takeaway facing jail sentences after a customer died from an allergic reaction to his meal is just one example of how a relaxed attitude towards food allergies can prove damaging to a small business and its reputation.

“In many ways, similar incidents have prompted the introduction of the new measures on food labelling from the EU and it’s essential that all affected businesses are up to speed with the changes set to come into force in December.”

The measures will have a significant impact across the entire food industry – in particular the restaurant and food businesses – with the extension of rules on highlighting allergens in the list of ingredients being extended to unpackaged as well as packaged foods.

Eccles, continued: “Currently restaurants, sandwich bars, delicatessens, bakeries and any other businesses selling unpackaged food are not required to declare the allergens listed in their food, but with less than eight months to go before the introduction of the new regulations it is essential that businesses put the necessary procedures and labelling systems in place or they could face stiff penalties, including criminal proceedings.”

Some key steps a business should take to make sure they are ready ahead of December include:

•   Monitoring all ingredients used in their food, and categorise based on allergens

•   Ensure that their suppliers notify them of any allergy changes

•   Review each menu item to ensure that all allergens are described

•   Store allergen-containing ingredients away from non-allergen-containing ingredients

•   Minimise the risk of cross-contamination by using separate areas for non-allergen containing dishes

•   Ensure all staff are allergen aware.

Allergies continue to be a widespread problem in the UK, with the most recent statistics suggesting that 21 million adults suffer from at least one type of allergy, with numbers continuing to rise, particularly when it comes to food allergies. Recent data also suggests that by 2015 50% of Europeans will suffer from allergies.

Further guidance is being developed by the Food Standards Agency and will become available closer to the implementation date.

Help from Menu Analyser

To help make people more aware of food allergies, MenuAnalyser is offering a set of free downloadable guides on how to read a food label. This is aimed at the catering sector and is available during Allergy Awareness Week.

The information gives helpful advice on food allergens including milk, gluten, lupin, eggs, sulphur dioxide, soya and sesame seeds. A complete list is available on the company's website.

As well as raising awareness of ingredients that can adversely affect some people, MenuAnalyser gives advice on the new legislation coming into force in December.

Teresa Dupay, Founder, MenuAnalyser said: "Everyone is entitled to enjoy eating out without putting their lives at risk. It is my mission to empower customers to dine wherever they choose, whenever they choose".

Allergy Awareness Week is organised by the Food Standards Agency, partnered by Allergy UK, The Anaphylaxis Campaign and Coeliac UK.

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