14 Food Allergens – new law, what’s changed? 10

On December 13th the new law came in which states that all food and drink providers must comply with the EU Food Information for Customers. (FIR Regs 1169/2011). So what does that mean? In summary, ‘allergy’ customers can now arrive at ‘a place that serves food’ and find/be presented with details of the Top 14 allergens present in foods on the menu. This can be presented on a chalkboard, on the menu itself, in an information pack or pinned to a wall. The ‘food serving establishment’ can no longer state that all foods could contain allergens. Oral statements must be backed up in writing. Environmental Health Officers will be enforcing the regulations and failure to comply will result in large fines.

This law does not mean that restaurateurs, cafe’s, school canteens etc are obliged to provide ‘free from’ foods – they just need to give you the information you need to make the decision about what is safe for you to eat on their menu. If they do decide to venture into broadening their menus with some ‘allergy friendly’ dishes that is a happy side effect, but the main reason behind this law was to protect those suffering from life threatening allergies. Every year 10 lives are lost from food allergy and over 4,500 are admitted to hospital as a result of a severe allergic reaction. It is hoped that these new regulations will help prevent such tragic loss of life.

The Food Standards agency website has some great information and graphics which communicate all of this information beautifully. http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2014/13305/new-food-allergen-rules-for-consumers

They have lots of information for consumers and information for those in the food business. There is also useful information on what the 14 allergens are and this leaflet http://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/multimedia/pdfs/publication/allergy-leaflet.pdf has some very useful information for consumers, clearly explaining the new labelling you can expect to see on ‘grab and go’ foods as well.

So has it made a difference? We haven’t been out much since the new law came in, but we did go to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park on Sunday and found a stall that was compliant. It was the German sausage stall beside the ice rink. I had a hunch that would be our best bet. German bratwurst sausages, almost always tend to be gluten free. The Germans are fanatical about their sausage ingredients and only use meat, herbs and spices – no junk cereal fillers and certainly no dried milk powder.

I approached the counter with optimism – hoping to order Zac a nice sausage without the bun, but with a side order of ‘safe’ fries. The people manning the stall were German and very busy, so they had taken the very sensible – and law compliant step of laminating a card, listing all the items on their menu and putting it in a very visible spot. They had graphics showing the 14 allergens, useful in a multilingual environment, and having tick boxes so you could see what items included allergens, e.g. sulphites in the mulled wine, mustard seed in the mustard(obviously), gluten in the bread, no gluten in the sausages none in the fries either.

So without having to bother the staff, or queue for ages and then find out there was nothing he could eat, I was able to make an informed decision within seconds. Just an A4 sheet, laminated and stuck to a bar. How simple is that? Kind of makes a mockery of all those who have been entering into the public debate on the new laws. Many in the food industry have featured in the media, complaining that the regs will be detrimental to their business. Surely, this proves the opposite.

Obviously, they do need to train their staff adequately and consider their menus in order to be truly compliant, but once it is done surely they must see that this is an opportunity to win custom? We didn’t see one other place at Winter Wonderland who was doing this and therefore those clever folks at the German food stall got our business. All of the food at Winter Wonderland is hideously expensive and this stall was no different. £5 a sausage, £4 fries, similar for a glass of mulled wine and beer etc. We spent £30 at this stall – and not one penny anywhere else. We’re pretty sure many other ‘troublesome’ allergy families will have done the same. So well done to our German friends. You have realised the benefit of compliance and are now reaping the financial rewards.

Top 14 Allergens on a Menu

Top 14 Allergens on a Menu

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10 comments

  1. It’s interesting you mention places won’t be able to state they contain the 14 allergens. Have you seen it bandied around twitter than sainsbury’s just has a big board in their cafes saying customers should note they can’t guarantee free from – and they list 10 of the 14!

    • The irony that a small business saw the potential and took the trouble to be compliant, yet big businesses can’t see how easy it is and what profits there are to be made. Usually Sainsburys are the first to exploit the ‘free from’ shoppers. You only have to look at the prices of the foods in their aisles.

  2. I am still very cross at companies that continue to use the blanket statement. It is especially infuriating when the company is large enough to cover any cost and provide man power to do a great job. A local Environmental Health Officer said to me “a blanket statement will not stop them having to provide the specific allergen information, so it is pointless using that statement”.
    On the positive side, this case shows how fabulously a small business can handle the new regs. Good for the German sausage stall and their helpful information. It makes a day out so much more pleasurable. I hope you had a lovely time.

    • Thanks Emma. I agree. There has been some surprising short-sightedness amongst the bigger names in ‘food’ and yet some smaller businesses have embraced it and seen the advantages to be gained by being compliant. I think one of the best ways to keep this story current is for people like us to keep sharing our good and bad stories through social media. Fingers crossed our campaigning will mean that by this time next year, the fuss will all be forgotten, sensible ways to communicate the information will be common place – and who knows some menus may even improve giving us even more choice. Here’s hoping….x

  3. Pingback: Our look back at 2014 – MRSA, new foods, new laws, new hope! « feeding my intolerant child

  4. Pingback: #14Allergens – new law, who’s getting it right? « feeding my intolerant child

  5. Brilliant! I went to the Winter Wonderland but didn’t try the german sausages. You’ve made my mouth water now just thinking about the. Thanks for sharing. I wish it was still there now ;o) I went to the Spaghetti House last year and they were really good. Also Brasserie Blanc which is Raymond Blanc’s chain were excellent. Blogs pending when I get time. I think things are really getting better or maybe I’m just getting better and communicating and braver ;o)

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