Food Safety - Allergens and Allergy Alerts

Food Allergy Alerts

Sometimes foods have to be withdrawn or recalled if there is a risk to consumers because the allergy labelling is missing or incorrect or if there is any other food allergy risk.

In such situations the Food Standards Agency will issue an Allergy Alert. These can be viewed on the Food Standards Agency website where it is also possible to subscribe to an email alert to receive automatic messages whenever such Allergy Alerts are issued.

You can also get details of all the latest allergy alerts as soon as they are issued by getting the details sent as an SMS text message direct to your mobile phone. This can also be done by visiting the Food Standards Agency website.

Consumers

Businesses have responsibilities to provide allergen information. However, as a customer, it is your responsibility to ask if you are at all unsure about allergens in food. The Food Standards Agency have produced a handy card for consumers to print off, fill in with the allergens they must avoid, and hand to staff when eating out.

New Allergen Regulations

On 13 December 2014 the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation came into force. These European rules are enforced in the UK by the Food Information Regulations 2014 (FIR). The aim of these regulations is to ensure that all consumers are given comprehensive ingredient listing information and make it easier for people with food allergies to identify ingredients they need to avoid.

The EU law has listed 14 allergens that need to be identified if they are used as ingredients in a dish:

Fish, crustaceans, molluscs, nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, soybeans, celery (including celeriac), mustard, sesame seeds, lupin, sulphur dioxide/sulphites and cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut)

All food businesses now need to provide information about the allergenic ingredients used in foods sold or provided by them.

Information for businesses

If you are a food business serving loose foods (such as supermarket foods counters, delicatessens, bakeries, restaurants and takeaways), you have to supply information for every item on your menu that contains any of the 14 allergens as ingredients (listed above).

Details of these allergens have to be listed clearly in an obvious place such as:

  • a menu
  • chalkboard
  • information pack

If it is not provided upfront, you need to signpost to where it can be obtained, either in written or oral formats.

If food is sold at a distance, such as through a telephone order for a takeaway, the allergen information must be provided:

  • before the purchase of the food is complete (this could be in writing or orally) 
  • in a written format when the food is delivered

If the allergen information is provided orally there must be a way for:

  • this information to be checked by others (verifiable)
  • it to be confirmed as accurate
  • the same information to be given every time (consistent)

The Food Standards Agency provides up to date information, leaflets, videos, posters and other helpful resources for business to download and use.  This also includes information about loose foods.

Food Labelling - Allergies and the Law

'Pre-packed' refers to any food put into packaging before being placed on sale, when all the following things apply:

  • the food is either fully or partly enclosed by the packaging
  • the food cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging
  • the product is ready for sale to the public or to a catering establishment

What to consider when labelling food (pdf 281kb) This is a FSA guide for small and medium businesses that make or sell pre-packed food.

IGNORANCE IS NO EXCUSE!

The change in the law means that you are no longer be able to say that you don't know what allergens are in the food you serve. You are also not allowed to say that all the foods you serve could contain an allergen.

You need to know what is in the food you provide.

In Staffordshire, Trading Standards and Environmental Health are working together to provide advice and support to businesses to help them comply with these new legal requirements.