Food Allergen Legislative Changes – The Latest Challenge Facing the Hospitality and Catering Industry

People who suffer food allergies have to be extremely careful about what they eat, sadly we hear all too often about someone suffering an extreme allergic reaction having eaten something while they are out, and not realising it contains an ingredient to which they are extremely allergic. Some five thousand people need treatment in hospital for severe allergic reactions each year in the UK, and some cases are fatal – causing an average of 10 deaths annually. Experts say the majority of these deaths and visits to hospital are avoidable, and some are a result of people being given incorrect information about ingredients.

Labelling rules from European Directives ensure that all consumers are given comprehensive ingredient listing information, making it easier for people with food allergies to identify ingredients they need to avoid. In December 2014 the rules were amended, building on current allergen labelling provisions for pre-packed foods, introducing a new requirement for allergen information to be provided for foods sold non-packed or pre-packed for direct sale. It is now a legal requirement for caterers and restaurant owners to display information on 14 allergens, including rare allergies such as mustard seeds and Lupin or face fines of up to £5,000. There is a three year transition period to allow businesses to make the necessary changes to their processes and labelling designs in order to meet the provisions laid out in the legislation.

Although these new EU rules are implemented to protect the general public their directive is causing much concern within the hospitality industry, with worries around curbing chef’s creativity and innovation, together with concerns over the cost implication of training an extensive workforce.

Anyone working in the food and beverage industry whether they be in a kitchen of a hotel, serving sandwiches in a café, working on a market stall selling home-made produce or providing school meals in a canteen, will need to be fully trained to understand the new legislation. The hospitality and tourism sector employs 7% of the working population, or one in every 14 jobs. The latest figures show there were 181,500 individual business sites operating across the hospitality and tourism sector. The sector is predominately made up of small businesses; almost half (46 %) employing less than five people, and it is these small businesses that are often hit hardest by legislative changes due to administrative and cost implications.

Hospitality and Tourism has always employed a high proportion of part time workers – nearly half of the workforce is employed on a part time basis (48 percent).  People traditionally filling these roles are largely transient and employers are likely to experience significant labour turnover and skills gaps. The sector also continues to rely on a high percentage of migrant workers (22%), often bringing language barriers. With such a diverse and transient workforce keeping up to date with important legal compliance training poses a continual challenge and expense. More and more businesses are now recognising the benefits of using e-learning to fill this training need. Employers can purchase courses such as the Food Allergies and Intolerance 2014 Online Course and enrol their staff immediately. The training can be taken at anytime, anywhere as long as the employee has access to a pc or mobile device with internet connection.

Sources:

Food Standards Agency.

European Academy of Allergy

www.peoplefirst.co.uk

BBC Health

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