THE LONG-AWAITED food allergen legislation has come into force.
All restaurants and food businesses will be responsible for identifying, recording and clearly communicating when any of 14 allergens are used in a dish or drink. It means that everyone from food suppliers to chefs; waiting staff to bartender will need to understand what food ingredients could cause allergies and how to inform their customers about them.
These new regulations have already put a significant burden on hospitality suppliers, the front line service providers and restaurants of all sizes. It is estimated that the cost of implementing these new allergen regulations could be in the region of £200 million per year.
The new EU regulations seek to provide the public with better information about the foods they are eating. The challenge will be greatest for restaurants that frequently change recipe or menu items; pop-up or event caterers; establishments with high staff turnover; and smaller eateries which may struggle with the resources to track, identify and record all allergens used from main dishes through to garnishes and drinks.
Some 8 billion ‘out-of-home’ meals are served every year. With up to two per cent of people being food allergy sufferers and 20% of people believing they have some kind of food allergy according to NHS figures, there could be millions of requests for information that food businesses will have to manage.
Jackie Grech, Legal and Policy Director of The Restaurant Association said: “The new food allergen regulation should give all diners across the EU access to reliable information on ingredients served in out of home, for example hotels and restaurants, food stalls and festivals.
“Food allergies can cause very serious health problems making it very difficult for a limited few to enjoy a ‘night on the town’. In this industry success is measured one customer at a time. Make no mistake, the Food Allergens Regulation will be challenging and cumbersome to implement, especially for small businesses and it is fraught with practical difficulties. But, if it serves the customer, then it serves the industry too."