Changes to Allergen laws as of 20th July 2016

Are the Allergen Laws changing in July 2016

On the 20th July 2016, the gluten labelling laws are changing. This is to keep them in line with Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC); and implementing Regulation (EU) No 828/2014 on the requirements for the provision of information to consumers on the absence or reduced presence of gluten in food.

What are the changes?

The rules surrounding the terms ‘gluten free’ and ‘very low gluten’ are not changing they’re simply being reassigned to a new piece of legislation. What do we know about these two terms? The term gluten free should only be used if you can consistently prove that the food item/dish contains less than or equal to 20 parts per million gluten; and in the case of very low gluten it should only be used if you can consistently prove that the food item/dish contains less than or equal to 100 parts per million gluten. However, the new rules do make a distinction between foods that are naturally gluten free and foods that have been specially manufactured to be gluten free e.g. gluten free foods that are available on prescription. The new rules will allow the following statements in respect of naturally gluten free foods: ‘suitable for coeliacs’ and ‘suitable for people intolerant to gluten’; and for specially manufactured foods: ‘specifically formulated for coeliacs’ and ‘specifically formulated for people intolerant to gluten’

What about No Gluten Containing Ingredients (NGCI)

We spoke to the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) today and this is what they said: “for non-prepacked foods, “no gluten containing ingredients” (NGCI) cannot be attributed to a single dish e.g. Cottage pie (NGCI). However, if you have a menu with sections listing starters, main courses and desserts, we consider a section on NGCI choices permissible. We also consider it acceptable to use NGCI in menu titles provided that all the items do not use gluten containing ingredients, such as “No gluten containing ingredients menu” or statements such as “All dishes on this menu do not use gluten containing ingredients”.

So, what does this mean in practical terms for restaurants, pubs, hotels, cafes, events caterers, etc.? Put simply, if you have best practice procedures in place you can present your coeliac diners with a separate menu that says: “The following dishes have been prepared using no gluten containing ingredients”. You could also present the same menu on a blackboard using the same statement: the following dishes have been prepared using no gluten containing ingredients; or if your servers have particularly good memories they can present the list of dishes verbally and once again say they have been prepared using no gluten containing ingredients.

No gluten containing ingredients (NGCI) sample menu in respect of the allergen laws July 2016
No gluten containing ingredients (NGCI) sample menu

What you cannot do under the new legislation is say, for example, “the beef dish has been prepared using no gluten containing ingredients” on a menu with other allergen containing dishes. You also cannot (and this has always been the case in food-serving establishments) call something on your menu ‘gluten free’ – unless you can substantiate this. There will be a transition period for compliance due to the short notice of the legislation.

Post compliance analysis

This feature will keep you ‘up-to-date’ with any developments / changes in legislation and how these changes will impact food service businesses on a day-to-day basis.

We liaise closely with DEFRA, the Food Standards Agency, local enforcement officers from Environmental Health and Trading Standards to ensure our training materials are accurate and timely.

Information delivery in action

Now that the deadline for compliance in relation to allergen declaration has come and gone – what’s actually happening on the ground?

Remember there are no hard and fast rules in relation to which method of information delivery you choose. Indeed, there is a degree of flexibility, for example the allergen information can be added directly to menus, food tickets, notice boards or given verbally by staff.

If allergen information is not provided in full on the menu, the food ticket, by the waiting staff etc., there must be a ‘notice’ prompting the diner / shopper to ask if there are allergens present in the food they’re about to order / buy. This notice must be clearly printed on the menu; prominently displayed on or near the deli counter; again prominently displayed on or near the chilled glass cabinet; next to the POS, etc. However, a notice can easily be missed, especially in an environment where the diner / shopper is bombarded by a multitude of sales messages / images, so it would be prudent to advise your staff to draw attention to it before the order / sale is concluded.

As mentioned in a previous Bulletin – if the business chooses to give the allergen information verbally, staff will need to be trained in how to provide and / or access information when asked. Some establishments nominate a member of staff (often the manager on duty) to act as the so called ‘expert’ in all matters relating to allergen management.

Who is responsible for making sure the information is delivered?

This is potentially a grey area, but you can bet the onus will always be on you – the establishment. So, don’t take any chances. Make sure you ask the question at each point of contact.

If you answer the telephone and you’re taking a booking on behalf of a pub, café, hotel, restaurant, etc.; or you’re managing an event…make sure you ask the caller if any of the guests have any food allergies. Then, on arrival clearly establish who the guest in question is, so that you can easily identify them and thus effectively cater for them. Even if the caller said NO at the time of booking to any members of the party having any food allergies, still quiz them on arrival…maybe a new guest has joined the party since the original booking. This will demonstrate a high degree of due diligence on your part.

Honesty is the best policy

‘Honesty is the best policy’ – this of course cuts both ways. As the caterer you must be completely transparent. Likewise, you should not be afraid to ask for the same level of transparency from your diner. The idea here is that you enter into two-way communication, which will enable you to determine whether…

The comfort factor

There’s no point in your saying YES when you know your systems are inadequate to cope with the allergen in question. It’s okay to say NO since you really do not want to make the diner ill. If you can say NO on the telephone (at the booking stage), and save the diner a journey, all the better. Don’t say YES for the sake of the extra cover(s), namely the person will almost certainly be dining with friends and / or family, but it’s just not worth it. However, with a sensible approach to cross contamination and ‘best practice procedures’ in place, it’s possible to manage most diets effectively.

Someone going out to eat with a particular allergy must shoulder some of the responsibility – they should be prepared to make a judgement call based on the information you provide and if they’re happy to go ahead, then you have done everything within your power to inform and therefore exercised due diligence.

Investing in the right training that is appropriate to your business needs is vitally important. The training product must be cost effective; demonstrate longevity; be easy to follow for all members of staff; provide due diligence; and protect your business in the eyes of the law and the consumer. Droppa and Droppa’s training product presents a common sense approach, providing practical advice and solutions that will save you both time and money.

A guide to allergen labelling and declarations

When you purchase our training product: ‘Catering for a gluten free diet’, we also provide you with two additional documents, designed to help you comply with the allergen labelling / declaration laws, due to come into effect on December 13th 2014.

The first document is a practical guide to the law with real-world solutions that result in compliance. It also includes 14 Factsheets with information about each of the allergens as recognized by the EU.

The second document is made up of two parts. Part I is supplied as an Excel spreadsheet, so you can easily over-write it to produce your own Allergen Reference Manual. The manual you create will provide your diners with a comprehensive list of all the ingredients in all your dishes.

Part II is supplied in pdf format and is designed with ‘dynamic’ menus in mind. Dynamic in this instance refers to menus that change from week-to-week or even on a daily basis. We have adapted the spreadsheet used in Part I, so that you can print it off and complete it by hand. Simply write the name of the dish in the appropriate box and tick the relevant allergens that appear in the dish.

Many of the principles you adopt when catering for a gluten free diner are readily transferrable when managing other allergens. Indeed, the measures you have to implement to effectively manage a gluten free diet are extremely stringent, especially when you consider issues such as airborne flour particles. So, once you’ve cracked ‘cereals containing gluten’ you’ll find you’re already a long way towards effectively managing cross contamination in respect of the 13 other allergens as recognized by the EU.