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New allergy rules for Welsh food businesses come into force

Published in Business, News at 16:00, Tuesday December 16th, 2014.

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Cafés, takeaways, restaurants and any other business that serves food to the public, must now tell customers of any potential allergens in their ingredients, following new EU rules.

From December, food businesses are required by law to tell customers if any of the top 14 allergen ingredients are present in the foods they serve.

A survey, carried out by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), found that 53% of respondents in Wales did not feel confident in their knowledge of ingredients related to food allergies and intolerances. This poll also found that 7% of Welsh respondents were more likely to suffer from food intolerances than allergies.

Restaurants and takeaways now have to inform their customers about 14 specific allergens that range from widely known ingredients such as nuts and milk, to less widely recognised allergens including mustard and lupin seeds, which are often used in flour.

Around two million people in the UK suffer from allergies including 2% of adults and 8% of children.

It is hoped the changes will bring about a reduction in the number of allergic reactions caused by people accidentally eating food they are allergic to. On average ten people die and around 5,000 are hospitalised per year in the UK due to allergic reactions.

Food businesses such as restaurants and cafés have been given flexibility on how they provide allergy information. This can be communicated verbally through explanations by staff or signposted to where or how more information can be found on menus or through additional means.

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.

Hilary Neathey, Food Policy Adviser at the FSA in Wales, said: “With a steady rise in the number of people suffering from food allergies and intolerances in the last decade, 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.

“The legislation is a huge step forward for those with food allergies, who should now feel confident they have a right to ask about allergenic ingredients in the foods they buy. This normalises allergen information as something that should be available at all times. We have been working very closely with local authorities, food businesses and consumer groups to ensure that these changes are put into place.”

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  • Henry Cooperfield-West

    This reminds me of the nut fiasco we have. It is all well and good to try and help people with allergies but we see on everything from chocolate to crisps “may contain nuts.” Food makers are terrified of being sued so cover their own backs. In the end it is difficult to find nut-free food. The same can be here with manufacturers listing multiple allergens just in case.