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FSA urges Restaurants to Review Their Allergen Information

Allergies are serious, but are often only talked about when it’s too late. Past incidents and fatalities have been caused by exposure to milk, egg, wheat and various nuts. It’s crucial restaurants clearly label all ingredient information of their produce on their menus, however this is not yet legally required.

According to the FSA (Food Standards Agency), the law states restaurants and all businesses which sell or provide food must provide allergen information, but how that information is provided depends upon the business. This can vary from:

  • Full allergy information on a chalkboard
  • An information and ingredient pack available
  • A written notice that’s clearly visible
  • A website link

Although these are all valid forms of publishing allergy information, they do fall short of the recommended precautions by the FSA. They can put your business at risk of incident or an unfortunate fatality.

The FSA recommends restaurants and food businesses utilise this allergy and intolerance sign to tell customers where to find their allergy information. Display this in your window, on menus, or use it as a template to create your own.

Owen’s Law and more information on menus

Owen’s Law, the petitioned law launched by the family of Owen Carey pushes for restaurants to publish written allergy information. It comes after the death of Owen Carey, who suffered an anaphylactic shock upon eating chicken which contained buttermilk. It was his 18th birthday.

Approximately 2 million people in the UK are affected by life-threatening food allergies, intolerances or coeliac disease.

Since his death, Owen’s family have been campaigning for the courts to put more stringent rules into law – and the FSA have taken on board the sentiment.

The BBC reported that FSA chairwoman Professor Susan Jebb said “it was clear that the board feel that we should set an expectation that food businesses like coffee shops and restaurants provide allergen information in writing as well as having a conversation. To maximise the likelihood of this happening, written information should be a legal requirement, rather than just guidance.

This is not the first time a death has stimulated change. In 2016 Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died after an allergic reaction to a baguette laced with Sesame seeds. This sparked Natasha’s law, mandating all foods pre-packaged on site are labelled with a full list of ingredients.

For restaurants who want to take steps in anticipation of the forthcoming Owen’s Law, which will most likely pass through the Houses without contention and receive royal assent, see these suggestions:

  • Have all information about allergens on the face of the main menu
  • Have all ingredients immediately available
  • Ensure full visibility

All of these should be in place to best protect your customers as well as your business from liability.

Allergy education for employees

Education for staff members is essential when starting a career in the food industry. Re-education for members who perhaps could use a refresher is also crucial. The FSA mandates that staff must:

  • know the procedures when asked to provide allergen information
  • be trained to accurately handle allergen information requests
  • be able to guarantee that allergen-free meals are served to the right customer
  • know the risks of allergen cross-contamination when handling and preparing foods and how to prevent this

The FSA have provided resources for restaurants and food business owners, include intolerance signs and menu planning materials.

Health and Safety Business, Sentient provide an Allergen Awareness course which can be taken virtually, online, for only £35, lasting 100 minutes. Sentient provide other food safety courses, ideal for restaurant management looking to educate, or re-educate, their staff.

What is the Allergen checker software for restaurants and food businesses?

Another way food businesses can make their allergens more visible and more accessible is by utilising technology. Software will go some way to benefitting customers and improving your business’s visibility, and should be used in tandem with improved menus.

Allergen Checker is a system software that aids food businesses in being allergy compliant. Operators can input a dishes ingredients into the software, which will generate a QR code. Display this QR code so customers can access all allergen information immediately.

Allergen Checker enables informed choices on the part of the customer, reducing the risk of accidental exposure to allergens. It also shortcuts the asking about allergens process, helping those uncomfortable making requests with accessing the necessary information.

With a simple scan, customers can access detailed allergen information, while waiters and waitresses save time and minimise errors. Now available for a free trial for restaurants and food businesses, find out more here.

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