Six consequences of not following allergen rules
The need to follow allergen rules is crucial. As some people are aware allergens can cause allergic reactions from a mild rash to severe injury and even loss of life. Food producers, manufacturers, restaurants, caterers, and food and beverage brands need to ensure that they provide allergen information and follow food labelling rules set by food law. According to this government legislation.
Those with food allergies need to make consistent, safe food choices, whether in a restaurant, at home, or shopping for groceries. Likewise, restaurant menus or food producers need to deliver safe, labelled, and reliable food options with full clarity for consumers.
The allergen labelling and information laws require food businesses to provide information to consumers about what is in the food they are eating so they feel safe and comfortable. Businesses that fail to do so can face serious repercussions.
Who enforces allergy regulations?
In the UK, the local authorities enforce allergy regulations. Food businesses must label the following allergens in the ingredients list if they use them as an ingredient under the food law.
The list of allergens that food businesses must label: The 14 major food allergens.
Restaurants and businesses must advise if they have a product that contains any of the 14 allergens in their food or drink products under The UK Food Information Amendment, also known as Natasha’s Law. The 14 allergies include –
- Cereals containing gluten (such as barley and oats)
- Crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs, and lobsters)
- Molluscs (such as mussels and oysters)
- Sulphur dioxide and Sulphites – at a concentration of more than ten10 parts per million
- Tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia, and pistachio nuts)
If businesses fail to list allergens on their products or restaurants, they may face the following actions:
Death and Coroners Court
Businesses label foods with allergen information because people are allergic to certain foods. We want to protect and prevent people from eating foods that can harm them.
If ingredients become cross-contaminated with allergens on the business site, consumers risk eating unsafe, sensitive ingredients as the allergen was not labelled on the food packaging. This could cause anything from a mild rash to severe injury and even loss of life.
Instances that lead to the loss of life of a consumer will be investigated by Coroners Court if the death can be unknown, unexpected, or suspicious. The coroner will hold an investigation to discover the cause of death. This process is long and arduous, both for the bereaved family and the business under investigation, at trial.
Suppliers or food buyers may take action against the food company or food producer if an allergen incident has occurred and resulted in the loss of revenue or in extreme, devastating cases, death. A legal case can be expensive, time-demanding, disruptive, and causes severe anxiety for professionals at risk. If a consumer becomes ill or dies due to an allergen consumed by such a food business, a criminal investigation will begin.
Reputational damage and risk
Many know the story of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who passed away due to an allergic reaction to sesame seeds that were baked into a baguette, this story inspired Natasha’s Law. Owen Cary, who had a dairy allergy is another example of an unfortunate allergen death. He consumed a chicken burger, and the chicken was marinated in buttermilk. Which was not mentioned or labelled on the menu or by staff, once prompted about the presence of an allergy.
Both brands that supplied the food items suffered significant backlash for their lack of thought for food allergies and intolerances.
A brand’s loss of reputation may cause concern for people with food allergies and intolerances. In the days of social media, there certainly is such a thing as bad publicity.
We know from surveying consumers, that those who suffer from food allergies will tend to opt for restaurants or purchase food products where they feel comfortable. And can be reassured that staff, menus, and allergen labelling – where the presence of allergens is honest and transparent.
Risk of External Audits
Often, within food production businesses, an external auditor will perform an audit in line with particular laws and rules to ensure the business complies with health and safety practices and procedures.
Taking into account the allergen laws and list of allergens. Audits may not be something that many food businesses will look forward to, but it is vital in guaranteeing safety and worth checking all procedures in the long run.
The external audits can force the business to completely rethink the way they do business and often flags areas where they are not doing things correctly. If a food business faces a contamination incident or scare, an external auditor or investigation will undoubtedly be on the cards.
Possibility of Loss of Staff Morale
Another possible consequence of failing to comply with allergen regulations is the loss of staff morale. If staff notice a lack of regard for allergen or other health standards and regulations, they may think this approach is appropriate for other standards such as hygiene and food standards.
Staff will not be encouraged or engaged with working in a food business that faces negative publicity and will be disengaged with their job and maintaining the food standards. Laziness will become pertinent and will become a part of the business’s culture.
Risk of Food Business Closures
The risk of making a customer seriously ill from an allergen incident can result in financial and reputational damage and in some extreme cases could even cause the closure of a food business – it really can have devastating results. Local authorities enforce allergen regulations and if a business fails to comply with allergen regulations, it will receive advice from local authorities and will issue a need for improvement notice.
If food businesses do not meet these requirements, then the company will be issued with a penalty.
In some cases, the disruption will be too severe for the business to stay open.
Keeping track of the 14 allergens and ingredients in food products doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Adopting the correct and appropriate procedures in the workplace and from suppliers is simple and worth the time and effort. They are protecting your business from closure, external audits, legal action, and many more damaging and disruptive actions.
Learn more about LiberEat technology to help food businesses significantly reduce risk in working with food allergens and detect errors.