Food outlets providing allergens information

Tue, Oct 23, 2012, 01:00

MANY CATERING businesses are voluntarily providing information on food allergens for customers in advance of a mandatory 2014 deadline, according to an audit by the Food safety Authority

However, the authority has also found that controls in kitchens to ensure allergen-free food is not contaminated varied greatly, with potentially life-threatening results.

The audit, which involved assessing the implementation of allergen controls, was carried out across a range of canteens, hotels, fast-food outlets and restaurants over recent months.

According to authority chief executive Prof Alan Reilly while it was “heartening” some kitchens were embracing the need to provide allergen information the results also suggested there was “a considerable gap in staff awareness” of allergens and the required controls to eliminate cross-contamination of food.

Prof Reilly cited the example of preparing gluten-free bread on a chopping board where bread containing gluten was made previously. “Food allergens can cause severe and possibly life-threatening reactions in response to even trace levels of the particular allergen.”

The audit showed three types of allergen declarations were provided by catering businesses. These were either on the menu or on a notice near the food service counters. They included “free from” declarations, for example dairy-free, gluten-free, or warnings such as “contains allergens” .

The FSAI provides a free email and SMS text service which informs people with a food allergy or intolerance of the presence of allergens in inappropriately labelled foods.www.fsai.ie