National small business group, the Forum of Private Business, is using Allergy Awareness Week (28th April–4th May) to remind small food businesses of the need to prepare for the changes to food labelling that will be extended to restaurants, delis and other unpackaged food sellers the UK 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.
Miss Eccles, continues: “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
– Minimize 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, and numbers are 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. Forum members can contact the business advice team on 0845 130 1722 for further information or advice.