Food allergies and intolerances present challenges for every member of staff and management in a food business; they must secure consumer wellbeing by adhering to food safety laws and an HACCP based food safety management system.
Since 2014, a food business which sells loose food must provide information about fourteen named allergens when used as ingredients in the food being sold or supplied. The Food Standards Agency lists them as:
- Cereals containing gluten. Wheat (such as spelt and khorasan wheat), rye, barley and oats.
- e.g. Prawns, crabs, lobster, crayfish.
- e.g. Mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid.
- Nuts. Specifically, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia (or Queensland) nuts.
- Soy beans.
- Milk, including lactose.
- Celery, including celeriac.
- Sulphur dioxide/sulphites, at a level above 10mg/kg or 10mg/L in the finished product. This can be used as a preservative in dried fruit.
- Includes lupin seeds and flour which can be found in breads, pastries and pasta.
Communication can be via various means, from chalkboard to website, verbally or detailed on the menu, for example. The information must be emphasised in every situation.
With prepacked foods, the ingredients list must have the allergen or allergens highlighted so the consumer can readily see that it is in the item.
Food allergies are on the increase, businesses must be proactive, aware and conscientious.
NHS data shows that food allergies rates have risen considerably in the previous twenty years and according to the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), each year five thousand of the two million people in the UK who are unfortunate enough to have a food allergy require hospital treatment for severe allergic reactions. On average, ten people die from food related anaphylaxis.
Long term health complications provide another risk area, a tragic example is a Lancashire teenager who died in 2017 from acute asthma due to a nut allergy after eating food from a local takeaway. The owners of the establishment face charges of manslaughter and failure to comply with EU provision for food safety and hygiene.
By speaking to industry specialists and maintaining regular food safety training and food allergies awareness, you’ll work towards ensuring consumer safety.
Peter Christopher–Ohrt, Managing Director Technical Services, Food Alert Ltd, a leading consultancy and food safety training company stresses that for food businesses, “It is imperative that they inform customers that allergen information is available and must be in a position to provide accurate information regarding the 14 specified allergens.”
“At Food Alert, we assist our clients by providing classroom and online training. In addition, we provide an online allergen control system on our FACT safety management system…. We also carry out audits for our clients.”
Please don’t create opportunities for mistakes or take unnecessary risks. The investment in food safety training and allergen awareness courses is far less costly than the ramifications of an incident; the time spent on education is invaluable. It could save lives.