Online tool to help businesses identify allergens on menus

Food Safety Authority app will assist 3% of consumers who suffer from a food allergy

About 3% of people in Ireland suffer from some kind of food allergy, according to the FSAI.  Photograph: Getty Images

About 3% of people in Ireland suffer from some kind of food allergy, according to the FSAI. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A new online tool will help some 22,000 food businesses in Ireland to identify and manage allergens on their menus.

The website and mobile app developed by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) will enable consumers to make more informed choices about the food they buy and also helps food businesses to comply with the law on providing information about allergens, the authority said.

The tool is additional to the free MenuCal calorie calculator already available.

“The legal requirement to display allergen information applies to all food businesses, including restaurants, pubs, takeaways, contract caterers, food stalls, as well as businesses offering delivery services,” said the FSAI.

Retail outlets such as shops and supermarkets selling prepacked food are also required to display allergen declarations for non-prepacked products.

About 3 per cent of people suffer from some kind of food allergy or intolerance, said the FSAI.

Chief specialist in public health and nutrition Mary Flynn said there was a lot more to food allergies than just nuts and that symptoms could range from a rash to abdominal discomfort, or they could be so severe as to be life threatening.

She said the new tool had been developed by food businesses from large catering establishments to smaller, owner-operated businesses.

Written food allergen information must be easily located and accessible to the consumer and clearly identify the food allergen associated with individual food items. The 14 categories of allergens covered include gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, celery, eggs, fish and shellfish.

Mister for Health Leo Varadkar, who launched the online tool on Monday, said: “Many people with allergies have to be extra careful when they eat out. Last year I made it compulsory for food businesses to label allergens on non-prepacked food products.”

The tool has already been licensed to the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland and there have been inquiries from England, Scotland and Wales about adopting it.

FSAI chief executive Dr Pamela Byrne said the allergen tool was an important additional resource for chefs and managers and she urged anyone needing support or information to contact the agency.