What are the changes?
If you own a food or restaurant business you need to know about the new laws that will come into effect in December. All food businesses must display allergy information for all individual products that they sell by December 13th 2014.
These new EU laws also include any unpackaged food that is sold, so all fast food chains and restaurants must display allergy information for each individual dish they sell, no exceptions. They must follow the new EU FIR 1169/2011 which will be enforced in December. ‘A new requirement for allergen information to be provided for foods sold non-packed or prepacked for direct sale.’ (http://www.food.gov.uk/science/allergy-intolerance/label)
Research has been conducted and experts have realised that most allergic reactions are from unpackaged food. People eat a dish without realising it has something that they are allergic to in it. It makes sense because the nutritional information is not provided for the customer to help them ascertain whether it’s safe to eat. In many cases they have to take the waiters word for it. This won’t be a problem any more if all food establishments follow the law.
Food businesses have to tell consumers if their products have any of the following in them:
- Cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut or their hybridized strains)
- Nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan nut, Brazil nut, pistachio nut and Macadamia nut
- Sulphur dioxide (>10mg/kg or 10mL/L in ready-to-eat or reconstituted products)
How can companies communicate this information?
According to http://www.food.gov.uk/ ‘This information could be written down on a chalkboard or chart, or provided orally by a member of staff. Where the specific allergen information is not provided upfront, clear signposting to where this information could be obtained must be provided.’
So in order to abide by the law you will need to provide this information on a chalkboard, chart or menu. You can also get staff to explain allergen information to customers, however this is a bit risky as there is always the chance they could miss something out or forget. It’s best to get it written down somewhere.
Another option is to use digital signage which has many advantages over non digital options. Menus can easily become overcrowded with information and it can be very costly to keep printing out new allergy information every time a dish is added or even changed slightly.
Thomas Fraser-Bacon of Allsee Technologies said “With digital signs you can update the information instantly and on screens in different locations if you own several food establishments. You can update allergy information and add dishes in a matter of seconds”.
Restaurants also have the problem of keeping nutritional information updated throughout different times of the day when the menu changes. Allergy information will be different for breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes. With digital signs you can easily adapt the information to suit the time of day.
Some customers like to know about what they are eating in more detail, especially if they are following a strict diet or have a severe allergy. Digital signs can also incorporate an interactive feature where people can obtain more information if they wish.
Food laws are always going to be changing to meet the needs of consumers and fit in with our changing tastes and concerns. It’s likely that businesses will constantly need to adapt to new legislation and digital signs can help to make the transition much smoother.