The Food Information Regulations 2014

Sarah Daniels The RedCat Partnership Ltd

The Food Information Regulations 2014- what do these mean for your business? 

The Regulations, which come into force in December 2014, will require allergy information to be provided on non pre-packed foods including those sold in Catering & Licensed businesses such as pubs, hotels, restaurants, take-aways, staff canteens and cafés. In addition foods supplied at events will also be covered, e.g. wedding buffets. Under the rules, the 14 food allergens listed in the Regulation, including peanuts, milk, eggs and cereals containing gluten, will need to be specifically highlighted to customers.

The purpose of the Regulations is to reduce the incidence of allergen adverse reaction by consumers eating undeclared allergens.

Food Business Operators will be able to provide allergy information in the ways that best suit their individual business. Some businesses will have fixed menus, others menus that are changing frequently. The provision of information on a menu, a chalkboard or as part of a conversation with staff will secure compliance with the Regulations.
However, in reality it is likely to be difficult to demonstrate effective compliance if a business relies only on verbal communication by staff.

Therefore, if your business sells non pre-packed foods you should begin to review your menus, train staff, engage with suppliers as to ingredients and review food preparation (in terms of cross-contamination) over the coming months, to ensure that they will be in a position to comply with the Regulation from 13th December 2014 onwards.

The regulations will be enforced by both Environmental Health & Trading Standards Staff from the local council

The key messages for Food Business Operators are;

  • Make sure that the information that you have on your ingredients is up to date
  • Keep up to date ingredients information for any ready-made foods that are bought in (for example, packaging, or website details from your suppliers)
  • When preparing food, make sure you know what is in the ingredients you are using- for example cooking oils, dressings, toppings, sauces, garnishes- again this will need to be kept up to date
  • Ensure you staff are aware of allergens, and what to do when any ingredient or  menu changes are made
  • Think about how allergenic ingredients are stored and labelled on your premises
  • Be careful of cross contamination- boards, utensils, serving spoons, woks etc
  • Thoroughly clean work surfaces and equipment, and wash hands before making food for someone with an allergy

The new allergen requirements will also apply to labels on pre-packed foods. Pre-packed foods containing any of the 14 allergenic ingredients must be labelled so that the allergenic ingredients are clearly referred to. Allergens must be emphasised in the ingredients list of a product using a different typeset (for example bold). The ‘allergy information boxes’ that customers in the UK are familiar with will not be permitted if they repeat the allergens in the ingredients list, but can be used to refer customers to the ingredients list.

Responsibility for the information on labels will rest with the operator under whose name the food is marketed or the importer into the EU (so for ‘own brand’ products, the responsibility will rest with the brand). However, even operators (including retailers) who do not affect the information at all, must not supply food which they know or presume has non-compliant labelling.

The regulators & the Food Standards Agency will be issuing guidance before December and indeed the FSA has updated its online Allergy training- this is open to all; the training can be found here
This training is suitable for business owners & senior members of staff, who can then go on to train other staff

Businesses will be committing an offence if;

  • The Food Safety Management System lacks Allergen Management Practices
  • There is poor training/ knowledge/ understanding
  • There is poor communication from the business to the consumer

In England and Wales, the primary mechanism for enforcement will be information & guidance followed by the issuing of improvement notices & sampling in accordance with councils’ Enforcement Policies; The primary objective is to achieve compliance in the most effective way. Interventions by the Enforcing Authorities will be in accordance with risk – think “reasonably practicable” & “due diligence”
Appeals to improvement Notices will be to Tribunals (more guidance will be issued in due course).
Enforcement officers will enquire about Allergen Management on routine inspections and advisory visits, but will also respond to incidents & complaints

In summary, before December Food Business Operators should;

  • Understand Allergens  & the link into your current Food Safety Management System/ HACCP
  • Decide what system your business needs to comply
  • Ensure staff are trained and aware
  • Communicate with consumers
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