Helping your customers

Avoiding the offending food is the key to controlling any food hypersensitivity and those people who are at risk must avoid any form of contact with the foods they are hypersensitive to.

icons of 14 food allergens

Read the labels

EU legislation now recognises 14 foods as being responsible for the majority of food allergic and intolerant reactions in Europe. Under EU law, these allergenic foods must be indicated on the label if they are deliberate ingredients in either prepacked or non-prepacked foods. Food products manufactured for coeliacs and other gluten intolerances are labelled either “gluten-free” or “very low gluten”, depending on the final amount of gluten in the product. Any food product that is shown to have a gluten content below a certain threshold (20mg per kg of food) can be labelled as Gluten-free. Since these gluten levels need to be confirmed by testing, it is highly unlikely that a caterer can say that a particular dish is Gluten-free.

Look out for “May contain” statements

The EU legislation does not cover allergens accidentally present as a result of cross contamination at some point in the manufacturing process but this hazard has been recognised by manufacturers who have chosen to highlight the risk using precautionary allergen labelling statements such as ”may contain”. This information is usually found on food packaging in addition to the ingredients list but it is not required by law. These statements should only be applied where the likelihood of allergen contamination has been properly assessed by the manufacturer and the risk cannot be reduced or eliminated. A caterer is not legally obliged to pass on this information to customers. However, they may wish to know if any ingredient had such an advisory on the label, in which case the caterer must provide the information.