Allergens on the menu

As of 13 December 2014 any business that supplies unpackaged food will be required to provide allergy information. whether you provide food to schools or care homes, run a supermarket, sandwich deli or restaurant, it will become mandatory to provide allergy information on that that is not already labelled. This could have an impact on your Public Liability and Employers Liability insurance.

With the new food law (Food Information Regulations EU1169/2011, which comes into force on 13 December 2014), all companies serving unpackaged food, or food that is packaged on site for immediate consumption, will have to clearly identify which of the dishes contain the EU Top 14 allergens.

The Risks

People with food allergies have to be extremely careful about what they eat. Food labelling is therefore very important as potentially there can be serious consequences for customer eating food they are allergic to. Inadequate food labelling could result in your company being held liable in the event of a customer suffering loss of injury.

What are my responsibilities?

This new legislation reinforces the importance of having a robust procedure in place to ensure customers are aware which dishes contain allergens. Details of the Top 14 allergens will need to be listed clearly in an obvious place such as a menu, chalkboard or information pack prompting customers to ask if any of the dishes available contain allergens. Whilst it is sufficient for staff to tell customers orally which dishes contain allergens, ingredient information should also be available in writing if requested, for example in a central folder.

Businesses that have a transient menu will find this a greater challenge than those with more regular standardised offerings.

The new law will not require affected companies to take out a new Employers’ Liability or Public Liability policy, their existing cover will still be adequate.

However, in future insurers may ask for confirmation of (i) what unpackaged foods are being sold and (ii) how the business ie ensuring compliance with this new legislation. An inability to show what procedures have been put in place may affect an insurer’s view of a business.

Food hygiene is paramount for all catering firms but these regulations re-emphasise the important of food handling training for all staff. All staff who come in to contact with food need to fully understand their requirements of food allergic customers and how to prevent cross contamination.

There are other basic hygiene measures needing rigorous enforcement:

Ensure all food is stored so that ingredients from one dish cannot contaminate another. Staff must wash hands after handling each dish and/ or wear a clean pair of hygiene gloves when handling a new dish.

Stringent checks on the suppliers you source ingredients from should also form part of your management of this risk.

If your business supplies unpackaged food and you are concerned about how this might affect your cover, please contact us.

The finer details

  • Caterers and food suppliers will no longer be able to state they don’t know if an allergen is present. At least one on-duty staff member needs to know which dishes contain allergens.
  • To state that all foods “could” contain allergens will no longer be acceptable.
  • Oral statements have to be backed up in writing if required, for example by having a folder onsite detailing the ingredients of each dish.
  • Local Environment Health Officers will enforce the regulations which could result in large fines if evidence of non-compliance is found.

The EU Top 14 Allergens

  • Eggs
  • Molluscs
  • Crustaceans
  • Celery
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Treenuts
  • Sulphites
  • Soya
  • Sesame
  • Peanuts
  • Mustard
  • Lupin
  • Gluten