Food businesses are required to provide allergen information and follow labelling rules.
This means that food businesses must:
- provide allergen information to customers for all food and drink
- handle food allergens appropriately during food preparation
Food businesses need to tell customers if the food they provide contains any of 14 allergens.
That includes if it is an ingredient, additive, processing aid or if there is any chance it could be present in a dish or product.
The 14 allergens are:
- cereals containing gluten (such as barley and oats)
- crustaceans (shellfish such as prawns, crabs and lobsters)
- lupin (a type of bean often ground into flour and added to pasta, sauces, breads, ice cream or gluten-free products)
- molluscs (such as mussels and oysters)
- sulphur dioxide and sulphates
- tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamias)
Consumers may be allergic or have an intolerance to other ingredients, but only the 14 allergens are required to be declared.
Avoiding allergen cross-contamination
Food businesses must take steps to avoid cross-contamination when preparing food, to protect customers with a food allergy.
To prevent cross-contamination with allergens:
- make sure staff have been trained in how to manage allergens
- keep records of allergens found in every food product served or sold, and make sure staff preparing food can reference it
- clean utensils before use, especially if they were used to prepare meals containing allergens
- wash your hands thoroughly between preparing dishes containing allergens
- store ingredients and prepared foods separately, in closed and labelled containers
- keeping ingredients that contain allergens separate from other ingredients during food preparation
If you are unable to guarantee cross-contamination will not occur during food preparation, you should inform customers that your dishes are not allergen-free.
You must provide allergen information in writing if you sell or provide food directly to consumers.
This could be:
- on packaging, labels or menus
- printed or online, to back up verbal advice given to customers
- displayed on an allergen sign or chalkboard (either in full or directing customers where to find it)
There are many ways in which allergen information can be provided to your customers. You will need to choose the method which is best for your business and the type of food you serve.
Allergen safety checklist
The Food Standards Agency offers an allergen checklist for food businesses, including specific information for different staff roles, and resources that will help you keep customers safe.