Allergen Control and Labelling: Ensure your Staff are Trained

Oct 17, 2018 editor

You can never be too careful. The impact can be devastating to all concerned as seen in recent news coverage whereby retailers have not been able to guarantee ingredients present in their products.

Everyone has the right to know that the food they have bought matches the description given on the label. If mislabelling is done deliberately it is criminal fraud, whether it poses a food safety threat or not. Falsely describing, advertising or presenting food is an offence.

Restaurants and takeaways across Europe are required by law to tell customers if their food contains ingredients known to trigger allergies and the 2014 legislation covers meals served in bakeries, cafes, care homes and packaged produce sold by supermarkets.

Staff must provide information on 14 everyday allergens including nuts, milk, celery, gluten, soya and wheat. There may be fines for repeat offenders.

Milk allergy is one of the most common allergies for children, but most grow out of it by the time they start school. For adults, it is rare - with one in every 200 adults estimated to have a cow's milk allergy, according to the Anaphylaxis Campaign charity. It is caused when the body's immune system wrongly perceives some of the proteins in cow's milk to be a threat. In more serious cases, there may be an anaphylactic reaction which includes swelling in the mouth or throat, wheezing, coughing or a fall in blood pressure leading to collapse.

Some five thousand people need treatment in hospital for severe allergic reactions each year in the UK, causing an average of 10 deaths annually but worryingly some are a result of people being given incorrect information about ingredients. Labelling is regulated to protect consumers who should have the correct information to make confident and informed food choices based on diet, allergies, personal taste or cost.

Businesses can choose how they give the information on allergens contained in their food - for example through conversations with customers, leaflets, food labelling or by highlighting ingredients on menus. But if allergy advice is not clearly given, the Food Standards Agency says there need to be clear signs about where it can be obtained.

Going the extra mile for customers shows customers your business takes their needs seriously. A thorough understanding and investing in training for allergy awareness and product knowledge cannot be overlooked. Clear labelling will enable people to eat out in confidence, knowing that allergens are monitored in dishes, and that the regulations are being adhered to.

Red Box offer a range of Allergen Awareness training courses and these can be made bespoke to your site. For support with allergen management queries or training programmes, please contact us for a no obligation conversation regarding your business or catering facility.