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Ask for Allergens - advice for businesses

If you own a food business you must provide allergen information about ingredients in the food you supply.

If you don't do this you could make a customer seriously ill. In 2016 a man died after he was served a meal that contained peanuts - even though he told staff that the meal must be nut-free. The business owner was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison.

Making allergen information available

You can do this in two ways.

  • You can provide allergen information in writing, for example on a menu or ticket near the food; or
  • You can talk to your customers about the allergens in the food. You must display a notice telling your customers that allergen information is available if they request it. You must then tell the customers what allergens are in the food when they ask you

If you prefer to talk to your customers about allergens, we advise you to complete a menu chart. This lists the allergens in each food and is a useful reference for your staff about the allergens in a particular dish.

You should keep your charts complete and up to date, particularly if you have a recipe change or if you decide to change one of the ingredients.

The Food Standards Agency has posters and useful information that you can download from their website.

You need to declare these 14 allergens

By law, you must declare these 14 allergens:

  • Cereals containing gluten – you must declare the particular cereal, wheat, barley, not gluten
  • Peanuts
  • Nuts – you must declare the specific nut eg almonds, walnuts
  • Milk
  • Soya
  • Mustard
  • Lupin
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Crustaceans
  • Molluscs
  • Sesame seeds
  • Celery
  • Sulphur dioxide (sulphites)

Other allergens

People can be allergic to other ingredients in foods, such as strawberries and kiwi fruit. If a customer requests foods without certain ingredients, other than the 14 you're required to declare by law, you must check that the food you're providing doesn't contain those ingredients and is safe for your customer to eat.

Keep your staff trained

All your staff need to know about the allergens in the food you sell - or they should know which member of staff they can ask if they're not sure.

The Food Standards Agency have an online training course which you and your staff may find useful.

Environmental Health Training & Consultancy also offer food safety training for businesses.

Taking orders by phone or online

If you take orders online or over the phone or online you should offer information about allergens. You need to do this before the final order is placed and then again when the food is delivered.

So if you're taking an order on the phone, this means asking your customers if they need information about allergens while you're speaking to them.

About the Ask for Allergens campaign

We're encouraging customers to ask for information about the ingredients in their food. We're also encouraging them to contact our partners Citizen's Advice if the business doesn't give them accurate allergen information.

We'll use that information to help the business understand what they have to do.

You can follow our campaign on twitter @askforallergens and look out for the hashtag #justASK.

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