Lots of us have to be careful when we eat out or buy food from shops because of food allergies and intolerances.
Well, now it should be a little easier to know what we are eating and putting in our shopping baskets.
Ealing Council has been writing to registered and approved food businesses in the borough to tell them about new EU allergen food labelling rules that came in to force in December.
The new rules will require them to have documented information on any allergens in the ingredients of their food from a list of 14 that the majority of people with food allergies are sensitive to.
One business that has been working with the council’s food safety team to make sure its menu clearly states every key allergen is CaféDeco in Perivale.
CaféDeco’s project manager Lina Tiareh said: “The food safety team has been really helpful in getting all the information I needed to make the changes. It directed me to the online training course I took to test my knowledge of allergies and also explained that I had to list the allergens in things like stock and other flavourings that go in to our food.
“It’s a big responsibility on my shoulders. I have to make sure the café is covered and I have a big responsibility towards keeping my customers safe, so I took the challenge very seriously.”
Some of the ways the allergens could be made clearer for customers include keeping them listed on a chart, displayed on a chalk board or included on their menu.
The 14 major allergens which will need to be declared are:
- Celery – including stalks, leaves and celeriac
- Cereals containing gluten; such as wheat, barley, rye and oats
- Crustaceans; such as crabs, lobster, prawns and scampi
- Lupin – including seeds from the lupin flower which can found in some types of flour, bread, pastries and pasta
- Molluscs; such as mussels, land snails, squid and whelks
- Mustard – including liquid mustard, powder and seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxide; which is often used as a preservative in dried fruit, meat products, soft drinks and vegetables as well as in wine and beer.
The new rules apply to so-called ‘loose-foods’ or foods that are prepared and sold from the same site for immediate consumption, such as in restaurants and takeaways.
However, the regulations will also require pre-packed foods to be more clearly labelled. The allergen will need to be specified next to the ingredient in the ingredients list in a bolder and larger font than before – making it clearer for the customer to understand what allergens the food they are buying contain. This will affect all food manufacturers in the borough.
To help food business owners cope with the changes, the council has been carrying out training sessions to make sure that café owners, restaurateurs and other caterers know the best and easiest ways to ensure their menus are compliant with the rules. Any food businesses that are not declaring the correct allergen information will be breaching the regulations.
Further guidance on the new Food Information Regulations can be found at the Food Standards Agency website.
First published in Around Ealing Extra on 17 February 2015