One of the many consumer protections led by the European Union is the requirement for retailers and food and drink outlets such as coffee shops and sandwich bars to clearly label their foodstuffs for the presence of one of the 14 allergens. Yet there are plenty of food shops, eateries and catering companies who risk falling foul of the law – and risking the health and even lives of their customers. So, how clued up are your staff on allergens?
What are the 14 allergens?
The 14 allergens covered by the EU regulations are, in alphabetical order:
- Celery (including celeriac)
- Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat (such as spelt and khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats
- Crustaceans, for example prawns, crabs, lobster, crayfish
- Lupin, which includes lupin seeds and flour and can be found in types of bread, pastries and pasta
- Milk (including lactose – consider cream and other milk-derivative products)
- Molluscs, like mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid
- Nuts; namely almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia (or Queensland) nuts
- Sulphur dioxide/sulphites, where added and at a level above 10mg/kg or 10mg/L in the finished product. This can be used as a preservative in dried fruit.
Allergens list courtesy of the Food Standards Agency (http://allergytraining.food.gov.uk/english/rules-and-legislation/)
Some high-profile failures this year have been catastrophic for the consumer in question, and disastrous for the company responsible. If each of the products you sell aren’t clearly labelled for their ingredients (here’s some guidance on allergen labelling), you could be risking a lot more than your reputation.
Moreover, it’s vital that all of your staff – and that includes the Saturday girl or boy – are well versed in the allergen content of each and every ingredient that goes into your coffees and snacks. This way, if they’re asked the question, they can confidently answer and ensure the safety of your customers and that your catering fulfils not just the letter but the spirit of the law.