The Food Information Regulations came into effect in 2014 with specific criteria which applies to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There are fewer labelling requirements for food sold from catering establishments* than for prepacked food, but any information that you do provide must be accurate and not misleading. This applies to all information whether provided in writing (such as on a menu or chalkboard) or verbally (in response to a customer's question, for example).
*Catering establishments' includes restaurants, canteens, pubs, clubs, schools or similar, and mobile caterers such as fast food vans.
Products sold loose or in catering businesses
If you run a catering business, and sell food loose or package it for sale in your shop, you only need to show:
- the name of the food
- if any of the ingredients have been irradiated, or have come from genetically modified sources
- certain warnings
In certain instances, the consumer should be made aware by an appropriate warning on the label if your food contains certain ingredients.e.g. raw milk. Raw milk must have an accompanying description: 'Milk supplied in this establishment has not been heat-treated and therefore may contain organisms harmful to health'.
You need to provide information to consumers about which allergens each of your products or dishes contains. Particular care should be taken with food described as suitable for allergy sufferers, either via a written description or verbally. You need to exercise extreme caution, particularly in relation to nut allergic consumers who could suffer a fatal reaction from minute levels of contamination.
Any vegetarian dishes must have been produced without any contact or contamination with meat, fish or seafood. This includes using separate oils for frying vegetarian dishes and careful checking of sauce ingredients. Some cheeses contain rennet, which is an animal by-product and therefore may not be suitable for vegetarians.
Additive information is no longer required on loose non-prepacked food so this would cover food provided at catering events.
If you choose to give information about calorie or other nutrient content of your dishes we would advise you obtain advice from your local trading standards or environmental health service (depending on the arrangements in your area). Further information on out of home calorie labelling is available on the Department of Health website.
Good practice advice
- Check that the descriptions that you make are correct, and match those given by your supplier (on order forms, delivery documents, invoices or on product packaging) - for example, if the supplier description is 'reformed scampi', the menu description should also be 'reformed scampi'. Check with your supplier if you are in any doubt about the accuracy of your descriptions
- Remember that product specifications may change over time, so you need to keep checking
- Take particular care when you change suppliers
- It is an offence to display misleading or incorrect information. The accuracy of descriptions used in catering premises is the responsibility of the business owner.
- Failure to comply may result in an improvement notice being issued, requiring compliance to be achieved. If the improvement notice is not complied with, it is an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990. The maximum penalty on conviction is an unlimited fine and two years' imprisonment.
- If allergen information does not comply with the requirements it is an offence under the Food Information Regulations 2014. The maximum penalty on conviction is an unlimited fine.