Looming regulation creates concerns for the food service industry

Allergen declaration is now very familiar in the retail food trade but is a whole new world as far as food service (restaurants, cafés, canteens, pubs, schools etc) is concerned. We log a few up-coming events designed to help caterers gets their heads around what is involved and Hazel Gowland outlines some of the risks and the programmes that she has put together to help both food manufacturers and food service outlets.

December 13th 2014 is the date after which all food service outlets will have to be able to provide, on request, information about any of the major allergens that are used in their food. For more detailed information see the Food Standards Agency site here but the allergens concerned are cereals containing gluten (wheat, barley and rye), milk, eggs, peanuts and treenuts plus three kinds of fish (crustaceans, molluscs and 'normal 'fish), soybeans, celery, mustard, sesame, lupin and sulphur dioxide above 10mg/kg, or 10 mg/litre.

Food service outlets will not, initially anyhow, have to provide this in written format, but they will have to be able to provide it. (In other words, someone in the establishment is going to have to be able to tell whoever asks about the allergens in their food.) And there will be consequences if they get it wrong. As Hazel says:

Whilst most customers avoiding particular food ingredients will be making a personal, ethical or lifestyle choice or be following dietary laws of their faith, some will become ill or even die if they eat the wrong thing. About one person in 100 has coeliac disease. At least one person in 100 in the UK has a food allergy and one child in 50 is nut/peanut allergic. Symptoms are unpredictable but may become severe or even fatal. About 8-10 people die in the UK every year from a severe reaction to a food.

It is therefore vital that all food handlers understand the risks and are able to provide accurate and up-to-date information about ingredients in foods on sale to customers who ask. In addition, they need to understand and control as many allergy contamination risks as possible within their food business. If allergy risks cannot be controlled, it is essential that food handlers tell customers the truth and NEVER GUESS.

What are the risks for the outlet?

Food allergic customers are increasingly likely to make a complaint or even take legal action if the food they are sold is not as described. Food business operators have already been prosecuted and had claims made against them following allergic reactions. (See this report for more details.)

Although most of the larger organisations in food service have been allergen aware for some years, and many have had some sort of an allergen policy in place, this is the first time that getting it wrong could have a seriously damaging effect on their business. For many of the smaller operations, this may the first time they have ever really had to get to grips with allergy.

In order to provide help and guidance to struggling and confused food service providers, a number of organisations (including Hazel's) are now offering seminars, guidance and training - a few of which we are listing below.


The Food and Drink Innovation Network which has been running retail 'freefrom' food seminars for some years is adding a food service day to this year's programme - on 19th September – see the FDIN website for more details.

The Food Allergy Training Consultancy is also running a food service seminar on the 22nd October in Southampton - see the fatc.co.uk website for more details.


Hazel Gowland, who has been allergic to nuts and peanuts since early childhood, and is Food Adviser to the Anaphylaxis Campaign, has been running allergen training courses since the mid 1990s. She says:

We have been delivering effective food allergy training to UK and overseas food businesses, food safety professionals and enforcement officers since 1995. Our courses are 'Tried and tested', 'Effective and fun' and are designed for:
• Chefs or service professional looking to complete their training portfolio?
• For training new members of staff to ensure that they understand the basics of food allergy when they start work.
• For those running community events on a paid or voluntary basis

Our Allergy Essentials E-learning is just £7 +VAT * including assessment quizzes and certificate
• 30-40 minutes accessible online learning
• Based on our existing award-winning and accredited allergy courses
• Audio explanation, on-screen key words, clear language and pictures
• Practical, accessible and fun

All details of the Allergy Essential E-learning plus our REHIS accredited 3 hour Allergy Awareness courses, DVD Training Pack, and Food Allergy Training Kit at www.allergytraining.com

Other training available:

1. RSSL - Reading Scientific Services Laboratory are old hands at creating tailored training courses around food allergy – check their website for more details.

2. The Food Allergy Awareness Training Consultancy, who are running the conference on the 22nd October, also offer training tailored to your company's needs – check out their website here.

3. Liz Allen, who learned her allergy trade running her own gluten-free cake company, is now running training courses for both retail and food service - check her website, www.lizallanconsulting.co.uk for more details.

First published August 2013



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