Food Allergens

Information on Food Allergens

Allergens in the UK

About ten people die every year from an allergic reaction to food, and many more end up in hospital. In most cases, the food that causes the reaction is from a restaurant or takeaway.

The 14 allergens

The 14 allergens that must now be declared are:

  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Peanuts (also called groundnuts)
  • Nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Molluscs
  • Sesame seeds
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Soya
  • Celery and celeriac
  • Lupins
  • Mustard
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at levels above 10mg/kg or 10mg/litre expressed as S02

The rules will enable customers with food allergies to be able to identify foods containing specific allergenic ingredients.

What you must do

Food allergens must be positively identified, when a customer asks about a dish you must be able to give a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer. This is for all foods served to customers, sold loose or pre-packaged. This can be done by:

  • Adding the information to your menu
  • Providing a separate sheet for customers who ask about which allergens are in which dishes
  • Verbally, if this method is used a clear notice must be displayed at the point at which the consumer chooses the food, this could be on a chalk board, a member of staff reminding the customer that they can ask allergens or a note on your menu to state “allergen information is available by asking a member of staff” or similar.

Staff must be sufficiently trained to be able to give consumers up to date and accurate information on allergens, or to refer consumers to the information in written form. To ensure that consistent allergen information is provided, you could consider using a system whereby staff direct queries to a nominated person(s) who are suitably trained.

Natasha's Law

Natasha's Law comes into effect from 1 October 2021, the requirements for Prepacked for Direct Sale (PPDS) food labelling will change in England. 

PPDS is food which is packaged at the same place it is offered or sold to consumers and is in this packaging before it is ordered or selected. It can include food that consumers select themselves (e.g. from a display unit), as well as products kept behind a counter and some food sold at mobile or temporary outlets. Any business that produces PPDS food will be required to label it with the name of the food and a full ingredients list, with allergenic ingredients emphasised within the list. 

Businesses need to check if their products require PPDS labelling and what they need to do to comply with the new rules please see the following Food Standards web page Introduction to allergen labelling changes (PPDS)

How do I know what allergens my food contains?

In order to find out what allergens are in your foods, we would advise that you write down all of your recipes detailing the ingredients that you use. The ingredients should state the allergens they contain which you can find either on the packaging or in documents supplied with them. You can then use this information to create an allergens information document detailing the allergens contained in each food you produce.

You must consider the ingredients list of anything they buy in, check the complete recipes of all products and always store foods separately in closed containers, especially peanuts, nuts, seeds, milk powder and flour. Staff should be trained in good separation practices such as regular hand washing, regular cleaning of surfaces, use of different utensils and equipment for foods containing allergens, and storing allergenic foods/ingredients away from other foods will help to minimise the risk of cross contamination.

Ensure you have a food safety management system in place such as ‘Safer Food Better Business’ and that it is being followed.

If you are asked about allergens, please be aware that it is very difficult to provide a meal which is completely free of all allergens in a small and busy kitchen.

You might wish to tell the customer:

‘These are the allergens which the dish contains…… BUT I cannot guarantee that the dish will be completely free of the ingredient which you are allergic to because tiny amounts of allergens may be present in ingredients which I buy in, due to cross contamination’.

If you use the allergenic ingredient in your kitchen you might want to say:

‘These are the allergens which the dish contains…….. BUT I cannot guarantee that the dish will be completely free of the ingredient which you are allergic to because I do use this ingredient in my kitchen and tiny amounts of allergens may be present due to cross contamination from equipment during service

Further information

Further information and resources are available at the Food Standards Agency

Resources include:

  • Signage for customers
  • Chef recipe cards
  • Information in other languages
Last updated: 19 July 2021 15:24:45