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Food allergens and the law

Restaurants and takeaways have always been in the business of making their customers happy. It makes sense, the more satisfied the customer, the more likely they are to return and the more likely they are to tell their friends. Food safety has always been part of it, no business wants to be on the receiving end of a scandal and nothing hurts a business more than a bad reputation. Conversely, until relatively recently it was difficult for a business owner to stand out among the crowd through excellent hygiene and customer care standards. Food standards inspection results were normally kept between the food business and the local authority, and the only time the general public got wind of the results was when the worst offenders were taken to task. Quite simply there was no defined way of showing that you cared about the food that you produced.

There are a few reasons why this changed. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 made it easier for anyone to get data about the businesses in their area by requesting inspection results from the local authority. That sounds good in theory, but in practice was not a very good idea as it was difficult to compare food businesses and there was a wide variation in the language used to describe standards that were found on inspection.

At the same time a number of local authorities were looking for methods that encouraged the best businesses to stand out among their competitors. Norwich was the first to come up with a “scores on the doors” type of system in 2005 but the idea was picked up by others including the Food Standards Agency who recognised that providing a coordinated way for consumers to pick out the best places to eat encouraged best practice and hopefully drove those who were uninterested in providing safe food out of business.

These days a five star rating for food safety is all important for any food business that wants to show that they care about the food they produce, and since 2014 the way that the business manages and provides information to consumers about the allergens that they eat forms part of the hygiene rating alongside how clean your kitchen is and how carefully you source your ingredients.

This is where Allergy Menu can help your business. The law means that knowing exactly what is in every dish is vitally important so that staff can advise customers about the dishes that are safe for them. Whilst the information can be given orally, unless staff have full knowledge about each dish, this can be quite a headache. A written document with each dish carefully dissected is the best solution, but it is difficult to keep up to date and makes dynamic menu changes complicated communicate with staff that are advising the consumer. Allergy Menu is open to both your staff and your customers and can be easily updated from any computer, tablet or smartphone. Using Allergy

Menu makes demonstrating compliance with the law a breeze and at the same time provides a platform to advertise your menu to customers that know they can confidently make safe choices about the options that are best for them.

Find out more

You can find out more information about the Food Standards Agency and how the Food Hygiene Rating System works here: Allergy-Intolerance Hygiene Ratings

If you’re legally minded and want to look at the technical guidance – this is the guide that local authority Environmental Health Officers are required to have regard to when checking compliance with the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (No. 1169/2011) (EU FIC) Allergen Labelling Guidance

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