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< Back to news 10 December, 2014

Are you on top of changes to food labelling regulations?

With only 3 days to go until the new changes to food labelling regulations kick in, are you and your business ready? As of Saturday 13th December 2014, the regulations around food allergens are changing in a big way.

From catering vans to care homes, food businesses across the hospitality and healthcare sectors are being urged to make sure that their food labelling meets the new regulations – or face the consequences. With this in mind, Beacon is making sure that businesses have everything they need to ensure they avoid any costly penalties.

The new legislation will build on the current provisions, which state that all consumers must be given a comprehensive ingredients list, to make it clear to allergy sufferers which foods they need to avoid. This will now apply to foods that are non-packed, or pre-packed for direct sale, under the new legislation and penalties for not meeting the new regulations include a hefty fine, or even criminal prosecution.

According to new independent research carried out by technology business Caternet, only one third of food & beverage (F&B) managers polled said they were 100% ready for the new allergen legislation, scheduled to come into force this weekend. A worrying statistic considering the financial and legal implications.

As well as food menus, wine and drinks lists will also need to change from December for any business serving food and drink. So, Beacon, which helps businesses in the hospitality, leisure and healthcare sectors improve their profitability, has drawn on the advice of a number of its suppliers to highlight what the changes are and what tools are available to support businesses.

Emma Warrington, Food Buyer at Beacon, shares her advice to give business owners the confidence they need to make the necessary changes:

 “There are many different ways to meet these regulations, but whichever way you choose the information must be up to date and easy to find. 

Internal communication is key
You need to make sure that all staff are fully conversant with the new legislation and ensure they understand the consequences if your establishment does not comply accordingly.  Why not spend a morning with all your staff briefing them on what is happening and what they must know and understand and be able to articulate to customers? Don’t forget to keep any new staff members informed too!

What’s more, there are many online courses covering what people need to know – why not ask one of your team to become the expert and they can then share the salient points with other members of the team?

Revisit your menu
Work with your chef to identify which dishes contain which allergens by breaking the recipe down to its base ingredients.  You could do this by putting together a simple table to share with your waiting staff, to inform when presenting them with the menu – simply explaining which allergens appear in which dishes. It may be an idea to further rationalise your menu to make it easier for you to share the critical information under the new legislation – a print investment that could be truly worthwhile.

Think outside the box
It’s important to know that it isn’t just food menus that will be affected; drinks menus will be as well. This means that the new legislation will affect bar menus, room service menus, snack menus – essentially anywhere food and drink is sold! Beacon supplier, Bibendum, will soon be launching a product database on its website, which will make it easy to see exactly what products will be affected by the changes.

Contact your suppliers for assistance
Many of our suppliers have created guides to understanding the legislation, which have been created to assist you with the legal requirements.  For example, one of Beacon’s suppliers, 3663 have created a QR code reader called Rapid Ingredients Checker (RIC) which is there to help you find out what’s in your dish, it will tell you everything you need to know including ingredients, nutritional information and allergen details. You can use this to inform your internal teams, or customers directly through menus or printed information.

Holidays are coming
As the Christmas period approaches, many hotels and restaurants may have already planned their Christmas menus, but as this new legislation kicks in right in the middle of the holiday period, menus need to be prepared with the new rules in mind. We would recommend that all menus are double checked before being printed or added to your website.

The legislation is complex and in some areas open to interpretation so we would recommend to always check with your local environmental health team and/or trading standards to clear up any ambiguity.”

For more information about Beacon and the services we can offer your business please click here and to follow Beacon on Twitter please click here.