Today, around 20 per cent of the UK population consider themselves to have a food intolerance. The increasing demand for more information about what’s in our food is a key driving force behind the new Food Information Regulations (FIR), in effect as of 13 December 2014. The new laws will impact all organisations serving and supplying food that is unpackaged or packaged on-site.
Every organisation, from event caterers, workplaces, and fast food retailers; to welfare catering such as schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, and residential care homes will have to provide information about all allergens present in their dishes. So if you’re catering for your employees in-house, or have a local sandwich van visiting your site, the new legalisation applies to both you and them.
If you provide food in any form, whether it’s unpackaged or packaged on-site, you will now need to highlight any allergens that are present from a list of the 14 found most commonly in food (like milk, eggs and nuts, even lupin — a seed which is usually found in pastries, pies and pasta).
The new regulations are designed to make it easier for people to make healthy food choices and also for people with food allergies and intolerances to choose foods which are safe to eat. By making allergen information available in a clearer and more consistent way, the new regulations ensure that information is at hand for any consumer who requests it.
Alongside compulsory regulations, there are also additional changes to the way nutritional information is displayed. Although voluntary, organisations need to make a range of changes to stay in line with the new rules, which include:
• Displaying energy values in Kcal and KJ
• Making energy values available per portion and per 100g
• Replacing Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) with Reference Intakes (RIs).
It’s a sizable challenge for any food provider, representing great investments of both time and money. But, as with all developments that create a better, easier life for the customer, there’s no question of its necessity.
The important question is: what is your catering provider doing to prepare for the change?
Are they planning to hand responsibility to the on-site team of chefs? If they are, they need to be aware of the ramifications that not following the Regulations could bring, not only in terms of misinforming consumers but also the risk of significant uncapped fines. Can you be certain that your catering team is checking every ingredient that goes into their suppliers’ products? And just how are they making their front of house team fully aware of every allergen present in every one of their offerings?
The fact is, if your catering service supplier isn’t ready with the right support and systems in place now, there could be problems in the future. Keep an eye out for the next article on this topic to discover how Eurest is gearing up for the new regulations.