Current food labelling laws & information on food contents provided to the public are changing.
The Food Information Regulations 2013 (FIR) changed in 2013 in order for the UK to comply with EU Food Information for Consumers (FIC) legislation. This law must be complied with by 13th December 2014 – but please don’t think that means you have all the time in the world to get your catering business ready.
Legislation covers all areas of the food industry but this blog is only covering food businesses who deal with unwrapped food because they have never before had to respond to this type of legislation. These operations such as caterers, deli’s bakers, coffee/tea shops, pubs, restaurants etc have to declare any food allergens in their food that could affect consumers. So to break this down into manageable chunks –
Firstly whether your business is gourmet or street food:
The law states that any Food Business Operator (FBO) supplying food to the public will be covered to some degree by FIR 2013. However private individuals preparing and providing food for a occasional events are not covered unless they are preparing that food as part of their business activities as an FBO, in other words the occasional handling, serving, & preparation of food at events such as school fetes, village fairs, cricket club b-b-q etc are not covered unless being provided by a food business.
So, the next important part is:
Products sold loose or in catering businesses
If you run a catering business, or you sell food loose or package it for sale in your shop, you will need to show:
◦ the name of the food
◦ if ingredients have been irradiated or genetically modified
◦ certain warnings
◦ any food additive you have added
◦ from December 2014, allergen information
So, to saveyou having to look it up for now those Allergens are:
◦ cereals containing gluten – including wheat, rye, barley, oats
◦ crustaceans – including prawns, crab and lobster
◦ molluscs – including squid, mussels, cockles and snails
◦ nuts (peanuts & tree nuts)
◦ sesame seeds
◦ soya beans or derivative product (soya milk)
◦ sulphur dioxide or sulphites (additives)
The difficult bit – how do you do it?
The information can be written on the menu, on chalkboards or provided verbally by a trained, appropriate member of staff or other suitable formats as long as it is made readily available to the consumer. The law says that it must be clear, conspicuous & not hidden away. If information is to be provided verbally by a member of staff, then you have to ensure that customers know that this is how they can receive that information by displaying a notice, adding a statement to the menu, or similar.
It is no longer acceptable to say “I don’t know” or deny any knowledge, nor is it any longer acceptable for a “blanket” type statement saying that “all foods may contain allergens”.
This issue has got to be addressed – it will not go away.
Failure to comply with this legislation or to give false or incomplete information can result in improvement notices, prosecution, fines or imprisonment, much the same as failure to comply with any other Food Safety legislation – so get started, you have your work cut out!
You will have to research menu items, suppliers & recipes to identify all ingredients, you have to decide how you wish to display the information – if you regularly change your menu, then staff knowledge is possibly the best route, if you have a static menu then printed versions will suffice, as long as nothing changes.
Staff training needs to be dealt with, kitchen & front of house staff will need to understand the implications of getting this wrong & know accurate information & how to communicate this to customers.
There is plenty of information available, including this guide – some clear, some confusing, if you need help or guidance with this, especially training for yourselves & your teams, let me know – I’d be happy to help.