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New food allergen rules for consumers

Posted: 12 December 2014 | The Food Standards Agency | No comments yet

The 2 million people in the UK who live with food allergies will be able to buy food and eat out with more confidence because of new EU rules coming into effect tomorrow, Saturday 13 December 2014…

FSA food allergens

The 2 million people in the UK who live with food allergies will be able to buy food and eat out with more confidence because of new EU rules coming into effect tomorrow, Saturday 13 December 2014.

FSA research carried out in partnership with national charity Allergy UK, found 70% of people with allergies avoid buying takeaways due to concern about allergens and a lack of trust in information they are given.

What’s changing

See below full size infographic.

From tomorrow, restaurants and takeaways will be required by law to tell customers if any of the main 14 food allergen ingredients are in the food they serve. These changes will mean consumers can feel more confident to ask about allergenic ingredients when eating out.

The 14 allergens range from widely known ingredients such as peanuts and milk, to less widely recognised allergens including mustard and lupin seeds, which are often used in flour. Check out our infographic for the full list of 14 allergens.

To reduce allergic reactions and deaths

It’s hoped the new laws will reduce the number of reactions caused by people accidentally eating food they are allergic to. On average, 10 people die and about 5,000 are hospitalised per year due to allergic reactions. The majority of these avoidable deaths and hospitalisations are caused by incorrect information being given about allergenic ingredients in foods when eating out.

This is a growing issue in the UK, with hospital admissions relating to allergies rising by 87% between 2002 and 2014.

How allergen information will be provided

Food businesses such as restaurants and cafes have been given flexibility on how they provide allergen information. This can be communicated through explanations by staff or signposted to where or how more information can be found in writing (for example, on menus or in additional leaflets) or verbally.

The new EU Food Information for Consumers Regulations will also change the way allergy information appears on labelling for pre-packed foods bought in shops and supermarkets.

Chun-Han Chan, food allergies expert at the FSA, said: ‘These new measures will make it simpler for those with allergies to buy and consume food. Allergies can be fatal for some people and this is why it is vital that food businesses give their customers information they can trust.’

Oliver Bolland, 30, from Hertfordshire, has severe allergies to eggs, fish, shellfish, molluscs and soya. He added: ‘I’ve had fairly serious allergies since I was born, but they really became a problem when I became an adult. I had six allergic reactions in the course of a month last year and each time it was because I was told it was fine to eat something that it later turned out I couldn’t.’

FSA food allergens

Image: The Food Standards Agency

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