South Ayrshire Council is reminding food businesses in South Ayrshire that they need to be ready for new rules which will affect the way they provide allergen information.
Currently when supermarket bakeries, delis, cafes and restaurants sell loose foods, they don't have to provide information to customers about food allergens. From 13 December 2014 all food businesses will need to verbally explain or signpost allergen information for the food they sell or provide.
Food allergies can cause life-threatening reactions and the number of people with this condition is growing.
The primary cause of food allergy deaths in the UK is allergic reactions when food is consumed outside the home, where allergenic ingredients have not been declared.
The new rules will mean that all food businesses will have to inform customers if any of 14 allergenic ingredients are present in the food they make or serve. This can be communicated to customers in writing on menus, verbally through explanations by staff or signposted to where or how more information can be found.
The 14 allergens are as follows: celery; cereals containing gluten; crustaceans; eggs; fish; lupin; milk; molluscs; mustard; sulphur dioxide; peanuts; soya; nuts and sesame seeds.
Councillor John McDowall, South Ayrshire Council's Portfolio Holder for trading standards and environmental health issues, said: "All food businesses in South Ayrshire should be ready to provide this vital information by 13 December. We understand food businesses work long hours, leaving little time to read through new guidance. However, easy to understand information has been sent by us the Council to all affected food businesses in South Ayrshire to help businesses with these changes.
"Businesses need to provide clear and accurate allergen information about the food they sell or serve. If any business needs advice and guidance on the new rules, they can get in touch with our environmental health officers via our Customer Contact Centres on 0300 123 0900 for help."
Dr Chun-Han Chan from the Food Standards Agency said: "'Food allergies affect approximately 5-8% of children and 1-2% of adults. This means that around 2 million people in the UK are living with a food allergy. People with food allergies can react to very small amounts of food, such as a teaspoon of yoghurt, a single peanut or even an egg glaze used to brush over pies.
"There is no cure for food allergies, so the only way for people to manage the condition is to avoid the food that makes them ill. This is where providing accurate food allergen labelling and information is important, and why food businesses, local authorities and the Food Standards Agency are all working together to ensure consumers have clear and accurate information."
Local authorities will be working together with the FSA to make sure businesses know what to do and how to provide safe food for those with food allergies and intolerances. To help enforcement officers and businesses with these new rules, the FSA has developed a range of training and education materials. Advice is available at www.food.gov.uk/allergy and resources can be found on www.food.gov.uk/allergen-resources