Additionally, over half (53.7 per cent) of respondents were unable to even identify the allergens included in the law, despite 80 per cent admitting they were asked for information by customers ‘sometimes’ or ’frequently’.
A majority (87 per cent) of operators felt that the changes have not been well communicated by the government, but 53 per cent said they would ask more questions about allergens to their suppliers.
Wendy Duncan, technical manager for Unilever Food Solutions, said: “It’s apparent from our research and queries we’re getting from our customers that operators are concerned about the new legislation. Only a third of businesses said they felt ready for the change. 85 per cent of caterers told us that they would like a handbook to help them prepare and 44 per cent believe they need to invest more in training.”
When it comes to where operators are getting information on the law, 38.6 per cent said they had read about it in the media, a third had heard about it from the Food Standards Agency (which published guidance at the end of May), and only 13 per cent had received it from their environmental health officer.
Allergen law fact sheet
The decision to extend the allergen regulation already in place for packaged food to the foodservice sector was announced in October 2011, giving operators three years to make the necessary adjustments.
The law will come into force on 13 December 2014, requiring operators to answer any questions from customers on the presence of: eggs, milk, crustaceans (shellfish), molluscs, fish, peanuts, sesame, soya, sulphur dioxide, nuts, cereals containing gluten, celery, mustard and lupin.
You and your staff need to know:
- What allergens are in your dishes and which ingredient they come from
- Where you keep the allergen information collected from your suppliers
- How you inform customers about allergens (on menus, on tickets, in a folder near the till)
Enforcement officers can:
- Ask to see allergen information records
- Ask a member of staff to answer an allergen-related question (make sure you have at least one ‘allergen guru’ at any time who can be directed to by other staff)
In response to the industry’s growing concerns, Unilever has produced an allergen and diets guide for professional caterers, which includes detailed information about the 14 allergens, what foods and products may contain them, and hints and tips on how to make substitutions on their menus.