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On 13 December, new European legislation will require food businesses to provide allergy information on food sold unpackaged. This will include, for example, restaurants, deli counters, kebab houses, sandwich shops, cafes, workplace canteens and bakeries. There will also be changes to existing legislation on labelling allergenic ingredients in prepacked foods.

Currently the rules on labelling allergenic ingredients only extend to prepacked foods, from 13 December 2014 they will also apply to foods sold unpackaged and the rules on prepacked foods will be changed. There is a list of 14 food allergens which must be declared whenever they, or ingredients made from them, are used at any level. The list is as follows; cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, molluscs, eggs, fish, peanuts, nuts, soybeans, milk, celery, mustard, sesame, lupin and sulphur dioxide at levels above 10mg/kg, or 10 mg/litre, expressed as SO2.

The information should be easily accessible, in a conspicuous place, easily visible and clearly legible. Information will need to be indelible (permanent) where appropriate, for example on food labels where it needs to withstand handling. The information should not be hidden, obscured, detracted from or interrupted by other written or pictorial matter or any other intervening material. Details of any of the above allergens must be emphasised in the ingredients list, merely declaring that it ‘may contain eggs is not sufficient’.

The provision does not require food businesses to provide a full ingredients list. Where food businesses choose not to provide this information upfront in a written format (for example allergen information on the menu or foods sold), the food business will have to use clear signposting to direct the customer to where this information can be found, such as asking members of staff. In such situations there must be a statement that can be found on food menus, chalkboards, food order tickets, food labels or webpages. Individuals who occasionally provide food, for example at charity bake sales do not have to comply with the new regulations.

In the UK, it is estimated that 1-2{ba3215b0bf35eaeb06be458b3396ffbfc50bb9db10c9ff1594dfc3875e90ea48} of adults and 5-8{ba3215b0bf35eaeb06be458b3396ffbfc50bb9db10c9ff1594dfc3875e90ea48} of children have a food allergy. This equates to around 2 million people living in the UK with a food allergy, this figure does not include those with food intolerances. Due to the impact on public health failure to comply with the regulations may result in criminal prosecution.