Read time: 3 minutes
Food and catering businesses are coming under increasing regulatory scrutiny for failures to communicate allergen risks to customers. This can cause legal and reputational damage, as a number of recent regulatory prosecutions demonstrate.
Food allergy law
Much of the law concerning food allergen labeling in the UK derives from EU law. The EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FIC 2011) recognizes 14 allergens, including celery, milk, fish, nuts and sesame seeds.
FIC 2011 also outlines the required format for presenting allergen information. Packaging must bear the name of the food and all allergens present in the food must appear in the ingredients list. Allergens must be emphasized (for example, by way of bold font, italics or color). For non-prepacked food, allergens may be highlighted by any means, including verbally or through menus, labels and signs.
Food business operators are responsible for complying with labeling requirements, with failure to supply allergen information carrying criminal penalties. The EU Food Information Regulations 2014 impose an unlimited fine for breach of allergen labeling requirements (although in practice, the fines imposed are based on numerous factors, including the revenue of the business).
- Poor allergen procedures are triggering fines on food and catering businesses.
- Failing to communicate allergen risks may endanger customers and create legal and reputational problems for hospitality operators.
- Allergen labeling requirements have been extended to food prepacked for direct sale.