Greater certainty for intolerance sufferers
A new EU regulation on allergen labelling has been welcomed by businesses and intolerance organisations alike.
The new legislation (the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation 1169/2011) will require food businesses to identify and list 14 potential allergens, such as gluten, soya, milk, mustard, sesame, lupin and sulphur dioxide, in all food sold unpackaged in catering outlets, deli counters, bakeries and sandwich bars. The rules will protect an estimated 21 million Britons who have food allergies and will be policed by trading standards officers, who can bring prosecutions and fines.
The new rules will mean all food businesses including restaurants, cafes, deli counters, bakeries and sandwich bars will need to inform customers if any of 14 allergens are included in the ingredients in the food they serve. If the food is not packaged, this can be communicated to customers in writing on menus or verbally through explanations by staff. It must be clear where or how the information can be found. However, the new rules do not require businesses to declare any risk of cross contamination.
Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK, explained:
“Making sure businesses provide clear, unambiguous information to customers enables people with coeliac disease to shop and eat out safely and confidently. The new regulation means people with coeliac disease will have a better understanding if food they purchase from a supermarket or order at a food venue contains gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. Although the rules are a great step forward, for total peace of mind, we are encouraging all caterers and retailers to label food gluten-free to show their customers what they can eat without fear of cross contamination."
One in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease, with the prevalence rising to 1 in 10 for close family members. However, current statistics show that only 24% of those with the condition are diagnosed leaving an estimated half a million people in the UK undiagnosed.
Adrian Fusco, Director of award winning, family owned Quayside restaurant says the changes are part and parcel of running a good retail or hospitality business:
“A lot of businesses have complained that the new EU regulations are a lot of extra work and too complex, but good businesses should already be doing it. While we agree with many independents that an entire menu littered with allergen information is unworkable, it’s not difficult to put all this information into a spreadsheet for customers to look at and for staff to learn. In my mind, it’s all part of good customer service.”