New UK food allergen labelling rules for UK restaurants
New EU food labelling laws have been introduced in the UK, requiring restaurants and takeaway outlets to tell customers if any of the main 14 food allergen ingredients are in the food served by the food outlet.
The EU Food Information for Consumers Regulations rules, introduced on Saturday 13 December 2014, have been introduced with the hope that they will reduce the number of reactions caused by people accidentally eating food they are allergic to.
The 14 allergens range from widely known ingredients such as peanuts and milk, to less widely recognised allergens including mustard and lupin seeds, which are often used in flour.
‘These new measures will make it simpler for those with allergies to buy and consume food,” said Chun-Han Chan, Food Allergies expert at the FSA. “Allergies can be fatal for some people and this is why it is vital that food businesses give their customers information they can trust,” he said.
Australian allergen notification requirements
In Australia, mandatory and advisory warnings are in the Food Standards Code, and, combined with provisions in the Foods Acts of each State and Territory have the effect that warnings must be provided on request in relation to over-the-counter or on-the-menu foods.
Deaths and hospitalisations due to allergic reaction in the UK
On average, 10 people die and about 5,000 are hospitalised in the UK per year due to allergic reactions. The majority of these avoidable deaths and hospitalisations are caused by incorrect information being given about allergenic ingredients in foods when eating out.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) said this was a growing issue in the UK, with hospital admissions relating to allergies rising by 87 per cent between 2002 and 2014. There are about 2 million people in the UK who live with food allergies.
The FSA research carried out in partnership with national charity Allergy UK, found 70 per cent of people with allergies avoid buying takeaways due to concern about allergens and a lack of trust in information they are given.
How allergen information will be provided
The FSA said food businesses such as restaurants and cafes have been given flexibility on how they provide allergen information. This can be communicated through explanations by staff or signposted to where or how more information can be found in writing (for example, on menus or in additional leaflets) or verbally.
The new EU Food Information for Consumers Regulations will also change the way allergy information appears on labelling for pre-packed foods bought in shops and supermarkets.
Food allergies in Australia
According to public health group Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia, Australia has one of the highest reported incidences of food allergies in the world, and the numbers are growing at an alarming rate. In fact, one in 10 babies born in Australia today will develop a food allergy.