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Food allergy awareness

In the UK there are around 2 million people with a food allergy. Allergies to particular foods, or ingredients in food, can cause allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe symptoms.

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Allergen Rules For Caterers

The Food Information Regulations 2014 specifies the information that caterers need to provide to customers about the food they serve, including information on any allergens contained within that food.

Caterers should have procedures in place to notify customers on request of the presence of any allergens in their foods. Also food preparation methods should be in place to eliminate the cross contamination of ingredients.

The provision of information regarding the allergens contained within any meal is extremely important as those with food allergies can have potentially very serious reactions to eating food they are allergic to. It is mandatory for caterers to provide this allergen information to their customers.

The main requirements for caterers are:

  • allergen information must be provided for non-packed foods including food sold by caterers at takeaways, cafes, pubs, restaurants and sandwich shops
  • information must be given regarding all allergens that are an ingredient in the foods prepared and served
  • the fact that the allergen information is available must be given in writing in and be easily visible and clearly legible (the allergen information itself can be provided verbally but it should be accurate, consistent and verifiable by reference to a documented system)

What caterers need to do

If you are a caterer, you need to:

  • make sure you and your staff are aware of the 14 regulated allergens 
  • consider the food products you make and identify which of the 14 allergens are contained within each product
  • decide in what form you intend to provide this information to consumers (for example, listing the allergens next to each product on the menus or having a documented allergen chart)
  • carry out staff training to ensure they are aware of the requirements and that they know how to deal with a customer's enquiry
  • ensure that the allergen information is also altered to accurately reflect any changes to ingredients or recipes as they occur

More detailed information for businesses is available on the Food Standards Agency website.

Allergen guidance for food businesses

Allergen labelling for food that is prepacked for direct sale (PPDS)

PPDS is food which is packaged at the same place it is offered or sold to consumers, and is in this packaging before it is ordered or selected. It can include food that consumers select themselves (for example from a display unit), as well as products kept behind a counter, and some food sold at mobile or temporary outlets.

PPDS food can include the following:

  • sandwiches and bakery products which are packed on site before a consumer selects or orders them
  • fast food packed before it is ordered, such as a burger under a hot lamp where the food cannot be altered without opening the packaging
  • products which are prepacked on site ready for sale, such as pizzas, rotisserie chicken, salads and pasta pots
  • burgers and sausages prepacked by a butcher on the premises ready for sale to consumers
  • samples of cookies given to consumers for free which were packed on site
  • foods packaged and then sold elsewhere by the same operator at a market stall or mobile site
  • PPDS food provided in schools, care homes or hospitals and other similar settings will also require labelling

What information needs to be on each label of PPDS foods from 1 October 2021?

The label must show:

  • the name of the food
  • a full list of ingredients with the 14 major allergens emphasised within the list

These must be in line with the current legal requirements that apply to the naming of foods and listing of ingredients. For further information on the changes, refer to the Introduction to allergen labelling changes (PPDS).