The Food Information to Consumers Regulation 1169/2011 requires that allergen information must be provided to consumers on all food, including non-prepacked foods. The requirement for providing allergen information for non-prepacked food is implemented in Ireland by the Health (Provision of Food Allergen Information to Consumers in Respect of Non-Prepacked Food) Regulations 2014 (the “Regulations”). ‘Non-prepacked’ includes where the food is packed at the food business operator’s (FBO) premises at the request of the consumer or food packed for direct sale or supply. It also applies to ‘mass caterers’ which include restaurants, canteens, schools, hospitals and catering enterprises.
The Irish rules require that allergen information is provided in writing. It is NOT sufficient for consumers to be verbally told about allergens in particular foods. The Regulations apply even where food is free of charge. Charities and those doing food tastings be warned!
While an FBO may be guilty of a number of offences under the Regulations, it is also worth noting that the consequences for failing to comply with the requirements can result in more than food safety offences. In the UK, a restaurant owner was sent to jail for 6 years when he was found guilty of corporate manslaughter by gross negligence when a customer died after having an anaphylactic reaction to undisclosed peanuts in a curry. The peanuts had been used in place of more costly almonds. This case is the first of its kind and is a stark reminder to FBOs to ensure that allergens are properly disclosed to consumers.
What Steps FBO’s Need To Take:
- Ensure that you know what allergens must be disclosed
- If there are late changes to ingredients in food products ensure that allergen information is updated where required
- Present the information in writing in an easily accessible and conspicuous way before the sale or supply of the food
- Make sure your text is legible and in English (or in Irish and English)
- Make sure that the information is not confusing
- If operating a restaurant/deli ensure that menus contain accurate and up to date allergen information
- If ‘specials’ are not displayed on menus – ensure that allergen information is also adequately provided to consumers in the manner set out above
- If offering free samples of food you must also provide the required allergen information