A quick guide for enforcers inspecting food premises: non-prepacked (loose) foods allergen information

Last updated:
20 October 2014
From 13 December 2014, all food businesses (eg restaurants, takeaways, bakeries and delicatessens) must declare any of 14 identified allergenic ingredients which are used in non-prepacked or loose foods that are sold or provided.

The 14 common allergens are:

  • cereals containing gluten: declaration of wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan), rye, barley, oats and their hybridised strains)
  • crustaceans
  • eggs
  • fish
  • peanuts
  • soybeans
  • milk
  • nuts: declaration of almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan nut, Brazil nut, pistachio nut and macadamia nut (also known as Queensland nut)
  • celery
  • mustard
  • sesame
  • sulphur dioxide or sulphites (where added is present at more than 10mg/kg)
  • lupin
  • molluscs

The Food Information Regulations 2014 (FIR) give powers to authorised officers to take action against breaches of the allergen requirements.

Legal requirements for food businesses

The legal requirements for food businesses are to:

  • Declare accurate and consistent allergen ingredients information to customers (includes food sold through distance selling such as online or by telephone).
  • Ensure the information of the 14 identified allergens, for the food they serve or prepare, is accurate and verifiable.

They can do this:

  • By being aware of allergen ingredients information for any food/ingredients bought in and by keeping this information up to date.
  • By knowing what allergenic ingredients (including cooking oils, sauces, garnishes etc.) are used in the food they serve or prepare.
  • With effective communication between suppliers, staff and customers. For example, if a recipe change leads to a change in allergen information, all staff tasked with advising customers will need to be made aware.

For relevant allergen tools for businesses, see: www.food.gov.uk/allergen-resources

Best practice (how to facilitate effective allergen management)

Allergen management is about knowing what is in food and controlling the movement of allergens to reduce or remove allergen cross-contamination.

Food businesses may wish to consider:

  • how allergenic ingredients are stored and labelled on premises
  • removing or reducing potential cross-contamination which may arise from shared equipment (e.g. serving spoons, chopping boards and woks)
  • thoroughly cleaning work surfaces and equipment
  • thorough hand washing before preparing food

Allergenic ingredients information: FIR compliance

Key areas to consider

Examples of questions to consider  

Staff awareness/training

  • Are staff well trained in dealing with specific customer requests for allergen information?
  • Do back of house/ kitchen staff check ingredients labels for allergen information before preparing food?
  • Where food is provided to those who cannot make their own food choices (eg small children, those with learning difficulties or relying on a carer), is there a process to cater for and protect/safeguard them if they have food allergies?

Back of house to front of house communication

  • Do back of house staff keep a record of allergenic ingredients used in dishes?
  • Is up-to-date allergen information shared with front of house staff (especially when recipes or ingredients change)?
  • Are language barriers addressed to facilitate the exchange of clear and accurate allergen information?

Communication to customers

  • Do customers have access to allergen information in an appropriate manner (eg clear signposting or in writing/upfront on a menu/ chalkboard)?
  • Is the allergen information or signposting to how to obtain it, in clear view?
  • For distance selling, is the allergen information offered at the time of purchase?

Verification of allergen information

  • How does the food business operator verify the allergen information?
  • Can staff easily check what foods contain the 14 allergens if a customer asks?
  • For distance selling, is the allergen information confirmed when food is delivered (especially for those with food allergies/intolerance who require it)?

Allergen best practice: outside FIR

Areas to consider

Possible questions

Allergen cross-contamination

Are there appropriate measures in place to prevent cross contamination of allergens when storing, handling and cleaning food surfaces after and before use?

Dealing with emergencies

Would staff know what to do if a customer were to have an allergic reaction on the premises?