Around 2 million people in the UK are living with a food allergy, with an average of 10 fatal reactions to undeclared allergenic ingredients a year.
The introduction of allergen rules in December 2014, means it is a legal requirement for food businesses to provide information about the allergenic ingredients used in the food and drink they serve.
Natasha’s Law, which was introduced more recently, in October 2021, dictates that all food outlets must provide full ingredient lists with clear allergen labelling on Pre Packed for Direct Sale (PPDS) foods.
You need to be able to supply information for each item on your menu that contains, as an ingredient, any of the 14 main allergens. Poor allergen control creates a significant risk to your consumers and your business’ reputation.
Key Food Allergens
There are 170 foods known to induce allergic reactions, EU regulations focus on 14 allergens.
The 14 main allergens to be aware of are (which are the most common foods to provoke allergic reactions):
• Celery (including Celeriac)
• Cereals containing gluten – these are Wheat, Rye, Barley, Oats, Spell and Kamut or their hybridised strains.
• Crustaceans such as Crabs, Lobsters and Prawns.
• Nuts such as Almonds, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, Brazil nuts, Cashew Nuts, Pecans, Pistachio Nuts, Macadamia Nuts and Queensland Nuts.
• Peanuts (also called Groundnuts)
• Sesame Seeds
• Soya beans (sometimes called Soya)
• Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at levels above 10mg/kg or 10mg/litre expressed as SO.
7 Step Allergen Control Plan
1 – Regularly update allergen procedure – you must ensure procedures are in place to enable accurate allergy information to be provided to customers upon request. Allergen information needs to be regularly updated, especially when new ingredients or different brands of ingredients are introduced to the menu. Staff must be familiar with this procedure to ensure that they can deal with such requests from company. A digital solution like Hubl’s Allergen Management Module can help you organise and manage information in your menu.
2 – Raw Material Storage – store all allergenic foods in a segregated area, away from non-allergenic materials
3 – Colour-Coding System for Utensils – implement colour coded equipment such as dedicated scoops, utensils and bins for specific ingredients. Place colour coding charts across food handling area to ensure staff are aware of system.
4 – Production Scheduling – by delaying the production of products containing allergen to the end of production line reduces the risk of contamination.
5 – Cleaning – an effective cleaning procedure is essential in reducing the risk of cross contamination. The protein component within food is what causes an allergic reaction, the aim of the wet cleaning procedure is to ensure allergenic proteins are fully removed. Hygiena Protein Swabs can be used as a cleaning verification method to measure levels of protein after cleaning. Test kits for specific allergens are available to ensure identified allergens are not present after cleaning. Designated spill kits ensure that dealing with an allergen spill remains contained to a specified set of equipment.
6 – Label review policies – develop an effective system that ensures accurate product labelling.
7 – Staff training – sufficient allergen training is essential to ensure employees are aware of what foods and processes can cause risk. Records should be kept of all staff training.
8 – Supply Chain Management – it is best practice to obtain copies of product or ingredient formulations, specification sheets or certificates of analysis from suppliers of raw ingredients.
Food Allergen Control: Need Any Advice?
These are just a few of the steps businesses within the food and drink industry can take to reduce the risk of cross-contamination and prevent an allergen incident. For more advice on how your business can control allergens, submit an enquiry below or talk to an expert on 08450 267 745.