The New Allergen Legislation: What Restaurants Need to Know

Hospitality and Catering businesses based in the European Union (EU) need to be aware of a big change to the law around how products are labelled in regards to Allergens.

This change is coming into place in December 2014. It was published in October 2011, to give businesses like yours time to adapt, however if you are unaware of the change till now, you’ve a couple of months to understand and prepare yourself for it.

To help make it simple, we’re outlining the details of the change and how it’ll affect your business below:

The Change in The Law

From December 2014 allergen information must be provided for foods sold non-packed and/or pre-packed for direct sale.

Food which is sold loose or served out-of-the-home will also require clear allergen information to be made aware to consumers.

What This Means for Your Business

From December 2014 you will need to highlight 14 types of food allergen contained in the food you offer clearly on your:

  • menus
  • packaging
  • displays

These 14 allergens are:

  1. Gluten
  2. Peanuts
  3. Crustaceans and molluscs
  4. Tree nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan nut, Brazil nut, pistachio nut, Macadamia nut and Queensland nut)
  5. Soya
  6. Milk
  7. Sulphites and Sulphur dioxide
  8. Fish
  9. Egg
  10. Lupin
  11. Sesame
  12. Celery and celeriac
  13. Mustard
  14. Cereals containing gluten

Some allergens have been excluded from this regulation as they’re uncommon in the EU. They include:

  • Garlic and onion
  • Yeast
  • Chestnut
  • Pine nut
  • Coconut

Although you don’t need to highlight these particular allergens, you may wish to include them for the benefit of your customers.

If you have a set and regular menu, this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for you. However, if you change your menu and dishes on a frequent basis (for example if you base them on fresh and in-season ingredients) you will need to update the information available to your customers when you update your dishes. This of course can add a time consuming task but it is essential that you do it. Try to find ways to manage this and automate it as best as possible – and put a system in place to make this information readily available for your customers.

It’s also important to educate your staff about the change to legislation so they’re also aware of what you customers need to know and how you must display the information in your restaurant.

Additional information to help you

This change is complex and it’s recommended that you look through the guidance which The British Retail Consortium and the Food and Drink Federation have produced. In this guidance, they set out clear criteria for educating your customers and details on how to declare each allergenic ingredient.

You can read the guidance here.

Kitchen Nightmares: Hygiene Regulations Many Restaurants Forget

Every UK restaurant, cafe, coffee shop and takeaway joint is rated by the Food Standards Agency here in the UK – the data of which is shared publicly. Not only that, customers are taking to social media and forums to ‘out’ restaurants they catch in the act of poor hygiene – naming and shaming and reporting to the authorities.

But many restaurants do try hard to adhere to food safety and hygiene regulations – so why are so many restaurants failing to hit the mark and why are so many failing to realise that they’re not up to scratch?


Well it turns out that some of the biggest causes of poor food hygiene and food poisoning are being ‘forgotten’ by many restaurants in the UK.

Food storage is one of the key problems when it comes to hygiene in restaurants – as food needs to be properly chilled and stored to stop bacteria growing and multiplying. If foods such as meat, dairy, cooked dishes, salads deserts and other ‘ready-to-eat’ dishes are left out at room temperature for a prolonged period of time (more than a couple of minutes), it can cause harmful bacteria to grow which is one of the the most common cause of food poisoning. All staff, including those serving foods and not just chefs, should understand the safe storage of food to prevent problems.

Reheating foods is another big problem for restaurants, especially if the labeling of foods to be reheated isn’t clear – as there’s a risk of reheating twice. Reheated foods should be steaming hot all the way through or reach a temperature of 70°C for more than 2 minutes. Foods which have been reheated but not eaten should be discarded immediately.It’s also important to ensure that the food is properly chilled and stored before it is reheated – as if its not bacteria can grow at a rapid rate.

Although many restaurants feel they are good at keeping the food preparation area clean, often the kitchens and areas are ‘surface’ cleaned only – meaning there’s lots of hidden dirt and germs building up behind equipment, underneath storage and getting caught in hidden places. It’s really important for restaurants to not only make sure the areas are well set up in the first place to aid cleanliness but that a deep clean is part of the daily routine and all nooks and crannies are paid attention too and not overlooked or ignored – as that’s where bacteria and infestations will occur.

It’s also worth noting that many restaurants have incredibly dirty mops (or similar tools) and that the equipment used to ‘clean’ isn’t clean itself! Damp mop heads can harbour germs and will spread them around the floor if not properly disinfected themselves. Ensure cleaning equipment is clean before use!

Cross contamination is also one of the most common and dangerous of kitchen nightmares. Keeping raw and cooked food separate, using separate equipment and washing hands between tasks and handling different types of food is paramount. Avoid spreading bacteria from raw food to cooked and to your guests by making sure your staff understand what cross contamination is, and how it can be avoided.

Should your Hospitality Business Disclose Whether it’s on TripAdvisor or Not?

Anyone in the hospitality business will have come across TripAdvisor – the forum and reviews site where the public rate and leave comments about their experiences with hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and other establishments – some positive, some not so positive.

Many hotel managers and hospitality businesses are on the fence about whether they should promote that they’re on TripAdvisor, and link to it on their website, or not. We’re here to share the pros, and the cons of disclosing your on TripAdvisor to your guests.


The Pros of Disclosing TripAdvisor

If you deliver great customer service and pay attention to detail, you’ll likely gather a lot of great reviews – which you definitely want to be showcasing to prospective guests. TripAdvisor reviews made by your guests will give potential guests and honest insight into what your business is like and less of a cookie-cutter testimonial which might not sound credible.

Website testimonials can be written by the company themselves – so showcasing or linking to TripAdvisor reviews shows that you care about the integrity and honesty of your reviews and are happy to share them. This sort of transparency helps build trust.

You can handle comments and reviews that aren’t satisfactory and do something to rectify it. Keeping an eye on your reviews on TripAdvisor and having an official account to respond to them will not only help you gather useful feedback, but could help turn an unhappy customer into a happy customer – and all helps you show you’re transparency to others.


The Cons of Disclosing TripAdvisor

Some people claim there is a lack of reliability with TripAdvisor reviews. Firstly, people who check TripAdvisor out before booking can’t be sure of the motives behind the reviewer – if it’s positive is the reviewer a friend of the establishment. If it’s negative, are they genuine? Secondly, it’s not easy to gauge the tastes and preferences of a reviewer – some people’s standards are higher (or lower) than others and this can be hard to judge.

There have also been reports of fake reviews written (or indeed commissioned) by either the owner of the business being reviewed, or a competitor trying to sabotage them. Although TripAdvisor say they take steps to stop this happening, there have been instances where fake reviews have slipped through the net and been caught by the press.

If you have a couple of bad reviews mixed in with majority of good, and you share those on your website or other marketing – will that taint someone’s opinion of booking with you? Potentially but how likely is it they would have checked out the reviews on TripAdvisor before booking anyway?


There’s no set answer as to whether you should disclose your TripAdvisor reviews and share them on your website and other marketing, however now you understand the pros and cons, you’ll be able to make an informed decision that feels right for your business.