Allergen labelling - An overview

Published: 5 Oct 2017

Since the inception of the allergen food labelling laws there have been multiple reported cases of breaches in food safety legislation. Recent cases have included fatalities, hospitalisation of customers due to allergic reactions, and numerous failings uncovered during EHO inspections. The implementation of the sentencing guidance last year has meant record fines have been issued and prison sentences handed out.

Most notably, the case reported in 2016 springs to mind, where Mohammed Zaman, owner of the Indian Garden restaurant in Easingwold, was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence. This followed the death of a patron who had consumed a curry containing nut powder despite making the restaurant aware of the nut allergy.

With legislation regarding management of allergens now firmly embedded in food safety law, there is no excuse for food business owners not to manage this aspect of their operation. We look at requirements which need to be met to keep your customers and business safe from possible disasters and prosecution.

The risk of possible allergic reactions and fatalities can be avoided if basic food safety fundamentals are put in place.

Who is this guidance for?

This guidance is to support CSC’s clients with understanding and complying with this legislation and is relevant to you if:

  • You provide meals in a restaurant or cafe.
  • You provide catering in environments such as schools, hospitals, care homes, external events and offices.
  • You sell food that you wrap yourself such as sandwiches, cakes and deli products.

The 14 Allergens!

  • Celery – Includes; celery stalks, leaves and seeds and celeriac.
  • Cereals containing gluten –Includes; wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut, or their hybrid strains.
  • Crustaceans – Includes; crabs, lobster, prawns, crayfish, shrimp.
  • Eggs – Often found in; cakes, mayonnaise, mousses, pasta, quiche, sauces and some meat products.
  • Fish – Often found in, relishes, salad dressings, stock cubes and in Worcestershire sauce.
  • Lupin – Includes lupin seeds and flour.
  • Milk – Found in butter, cream, cheese and yoghurt.
  • Molluscs – Includes; mussels, land snails, squid and whelks.
  • Mustard – Often found in breads, curries, marinades, meat products, salad dressings, sauces and soups
  • Nuts – includes almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan, brazil, pistachio, macadamia and queensland nut.
  • Peanuts – Often found in biscuits, cakes, curries, desserts and sauces.
  • Sesame Seeds – Often found in bread, breadsticks and houmous.
  • Soya – Often used in; desserts, ice cream, meat products, sauces and vegetarian products.
  • Sulphur Dioxide – Often used as a preservative in dried fruit, meat products, vegetables and drinks.

How do I know which allergens are in my ingredients?

Your supplier must give you this information, either on labelling or other paperwork.

For pre-packed food, the allergens will normally:

  • Be emphasised in the ingredients list, OR
  • Appear in the name of the food e.g. “Dijon Mustard”, OR
  • Appear in a separate allergens statement on the packaging.
    • You will see old and new allergen labelling for a long time after December 2014 because food packed before this may have a long shelf life.
    • Make sure you get the information with every order, in case ingredients change.

How do I give the information to my customers?

You can put the information on the menu, but if you regularly change your ingredients, or if you make specials which don’t appear on the menu, this will be difficult. You could put the information in a loose-leaf binder for your customers to view or for your staff to refer to when asked.

If you choose to provide the information only on request, you must have a prominent written statement or notice to let customers know they can ask a member of staff for allergen information. You should have prepared accurate written information, so make sure your staff refer to this when customers ask about allergens.

How should I keep the information?

You need to decide what works best for your business, but you should have a system for preparing the information and you should make sure someone has responsibility for the system.

CSC suggested system

  • Write down the name of the food as it appears on your menu.
  • List all of the ingredients, (from your recipe)
  • List the ingredients of any compound ingredients, (or attach the ingredients list from the label) for example:
    • Pasta – Durum Wheat Semolina, Water, Free Range Egg, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Highlight the allergenic ingredients
    • Pasta – Durum Wheat Semolina, Water, Free Range Egg, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • As you highlight these ingredients, put a tick or check mark against the named allergen. If the allergen is listed as “cream”, “cheese” or “yoghurt”, tick “milk”.
  • Write your Allergen Statement – “Contains…”
  • Sign and date the information sheet.

Keep a copy with your recipe and another copy in your loose-leaf binder.

Prepare a new information sheet if you change the recipe or change the ingredients.

Please contact the CSC Helpline on 01761 235604 for assistance, we can provide our clients with an example of a completed information sheet and a blank format to make up your own.


Key points to remember

  1. All food items served in the premises must be assessed for their allergen content.
  2. Ensure that company recipes and menus are updated to reflect changes in ingredient content.
  3. Up to date information pertaining to allergen content of foods sold/served in the food establishment must be readily available for patrons. Menus and/or display boards can be used for this purpose.
  4. Members of the kitchen team and front of house must also be knowledgeable of the allergen content of food. The provision and use of an up to date allergen matrix cannot be understated.

For further advice, training or assistance, do not hesitate to contact CSC


Another breach in allergen safety – curry house prosecuted

Allergens Labelling Guidance

New research shows that consumers with food allergies are more confident about eating out