Key aspects of legislation from a manufacturing view

Food legislation plays an important role in the development of a policy for the handling of allergens in food manufacturing. Manufacturers have a responsibility to provide safe food for consumers, and this includes safety from an allergy sufferer's view. The obvious legislation is that which directly relates to food, such as Food Labelling Regulations. However, in addition other areas of the law need to be considered and these include relevant consumer protection legislation and requirements arising from the European Product Liability and Product Safety Directives. Manufacturers need to consider the extent to which their position and that of their products will be influenced by a number of potential circumstances.

A significant number of people have unfortunately died or have been seriously ill as a direct result of an allergic reaction following the ingestion of foods which, unknown to them, contained small amounts of allergens to which they had an anaphylactic reaction. These cases have received widespread publicity. Responsible food manufacturers know that a number of foods and ingredients can give rise to rapid, life-threatening reactions in a small number of allergic individuals. The adverse publicity that might be received following an incident could be extremely damaging to the reputation of the product concerned and, indeed, the company's standing.

Advice to catering establishments

In case a customer asks you about the ingredients of a meal, you should aim to make sure that there is always someone on duty who knows or can find out the ingredients of all the foods you provide. If you are not sure whether there is atrace of alife-threatening ingredient in a meal then say so - neverguess. If foods contain nuts, make sure this is reflected in the name or the menu description, for example, carrot and nut salad.

Foods to watch out for

Many establishments often use nuts and seeds to decorate cakes, ice creams, speciality breads or savoury dishes. Other less obvious sources of nuts and seeds are:

• marzipan which is made from almonds

• hummus which contains sesame seeds and halva which is made from sesame seeds

• sauces such as satay sauce which is made from peanuts

• products such as Waldorf Salad, salad dressings and flavourings

A customer suffering from severe food allergy will usually know about the foods they must avoid

What your staff can do to help customers

If you are asked by a customer you must

• Tell them what is in your food - exactly

Remember!

Even tiny traces of these foods can kill.

• Thinkbefore using nut and seed oils, salad dressings and seafood sauces

• Don't let nuts, seeds and shellfish touch food that shouldn't have those ingredients

• Clean your hands, work surfaces and utensils after handling nuts, shellfish and seeds

• Think before cooking with oils that have been used to cook other foods.

Fig. 8.3 Extract from MAFF guidelines: Be Allergy Aware - Advice for Catering

Establishments.3

Manufacturers need to consider their legal obligations to inform purchasers of a product of the known or adventitious presence of allergens, even where this is not a specific requirement of current food labelling legislation. There are many additional points to consider from a manufacturer's view and these include some of the following. Is it appropriate that all relevant information should be given in the ingredients list or is an alternative location preferable? Where the presence of allergens is highlighted on labels the prominence of that message needs to be ascertained. There are not necessarily clear responses to these points available in law. It is clear that where an ingredient is knowingly added to a food, the Food Labelling Directive (79/112) requires that its presence should be declared on the ingredients list. However, there are exceptions to this Directive which are discussed in detail below.

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