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What are food allergens and why are they so important?

Food allergens are food ingredients which can cause an allergic reaction or intolerance in some people. People who have a food allergy can suffer with mild to severe symptoms and in some rare occurrences death. As a consumer you have a right to know which food allergens are in any food you purchase.

What are the 14 food allergens?

There are 14 allergens which must be highlighted on the label of any food packed before it is requested by the consumer. Where the food is not packed the consumer must be provided with allergen information when requested. If a consumer has a food allergy to other than 1 of the 14 it is also important to know if the food contains  it. 

Do my staff need to undertake food allergen training?

It is really important that all staff receive food allergen training so they can appreciate how important it is and what your procedures are. You should record their training as proof that this has been carried out.  The Food Standards Agency have produced free on-line food allergen training for businesses.  

What do I need to do if the food I provide is not packed before being requested?

If you are running a business you will need to have in place a system for dealing with customers who have a food allergy. You must display an advisory food allergy poster inviting customers to let you know if they have a food allergy or intolerance. You should check each of the ingredients used in preparing the food to see if the allergen is in it.

I prepare and pack foods at my business in advance for customers. How should I label it?

From 1st October 2021 the rules are changing and you will normally need to provide a label on each item indicating the name of the food and a list of ingredients with any of the 14 allergens highlighted. It is recommended that you indicate the shelf life of the product on the label also.

What do I need to do to meet allergen requirements for orders received by phone or email?

To safeguard any of your customers who may have a food allergy there are specific distance selling measures which you must comply with.

Why is prevention of cross-contamination so important?

It is really important for businesses to have in place suitable procedures to prevent allergen cross-contamination of foods as this could lead to ill health of in rare cases death.