If you own any kind of food business, from preparing raw ingredients to serving full meals, allergen legislation applies to you. No matter how large or small your food brand, you have a duty to know exactly what’s in your ingredients and dishes, so that you can inform your customers.
In recent years, there has been a number of high profile cases of neglect surrounding food allergen awareness. Most high profile was the case of 15 year old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who died after eating a baguette from the Heathrow branch of Prét a Manger that contained sesame. Natasha was severely allergic to sesame, and the baguette did not have sesame listed in the ingredients despite it being used in the flour to make the ‘artisan’ baguette.
A further case saw an Indian restaurant owner being jailed for six years in 2014 for manslaughter, after diner, 38 year old Paul Wilson, died after eating a takeaway containing peanuts. Restaurant owner Mohammed Zaman was found to have been using a cheap ground peanut mix instead of the ground almonds stated on the menu.
As a result of Natasha’s death, a new law will come into force in October 2021 that means all pre-packed food made on a restaurants premises will have to contain full ingredient and allergen labelling on their packaging.
In the UK, 4,500 people are admitted to hospital as a result of suffering an allergic reaction to food per year, and ten people sadly lose their lives. In addition to food allergies, there are many food intolerances (causing a less severe reaction, but unpleasant nonetheless) to consider. Plus those who chose to avoid certain foods due to religious, cultural, personal health, animal welfare and environmental beliefs. This means that some people choose not to eat any or certain types of meat, dairy and other animal products, that can often be hidden in foods.
So that’s an awful lot of people that have a keen interest in exactly what their food contains. Serious health concerns and food choices aside, consumers don’t like to be lied to – we only need to look back at the horse meat scandal to realise that. Despite horse meat being acceptable (and safe) to eat in some countries, it isn’t widely eaten in the UK. Eating something that isn’t listed on the label put many consumers off the brands involved.
In terms of your food business, this means that not only do you have a legal and a moral duty to know and display what’s in your ingredients and food. It’s also in your best interests to inform your customers of this information in order to keep them happy, and returning to your business.
Just as 5* Food Hygiene Rating add to your credibility, letting your customers know that you understand their needs, and that you’re supporting them in their choices, helps the reputation of your business. Let alone making you adhere to the strict food laws that govern food preparation and handling.
It’s crucial that your business does all it can to stick to the law, for your benefit, and that of your customers. Your manager and your chefs should be trained to at least a ‘’Level 2 Award in Food Allergen Awareness’’ so that they can give that information to your diners and customers. You should also have a full allergen matrix, a document that covers every single one of your ingredients and products or dishes displaying any allergens clearly for customers to see.
We understand this can be minefield, but we’re here to help. We can support all your food safety needs, so call us to find out how we can help you accelerate your business.