Eating out or purchasing food can be a daunting experience when you or a member of your family has a food allergy. Receiving a birthday meal, party or family gathering invite often results in a sense of dread when you have a serious food allergy. Will the restaurant be able to cater to my needs? Can I be sure I’ll be safe?

When ordering food, you place your trust in the caterer to provide you with food that is safe to eat and you rely on the information they give to you. Unfortunately, there have been numerous, preventable tragedies whereby people have lost their lives because allergens were not dealt with properly.

In December 2014, new regulations came into force in the form of the European Food Information to Consumers Regulation No 1169/2011 (FIC). This provides a legal framework which catering outlets must follow to ensure that the top 14 allergens are notified to customers clearly. The top 14 allergens are:

  1. Eggs
  2. Sesame
  3. Milk
  4. Tree Nuts
  5. Peanuts
  6. Fish
  7. Crustaceans
  8. Soya
  9. Gluten containing grains
  10. Molluscs
  11. Lupin
  12. Mustard
  13. Celery
  14. Sulphites

What should I do when eating out when I have a food allergy?

It is important that you inform the caterer of your allergy and request that they go through the menu with you and confirm which items are suitable for you. Foods that contain allergens must be clearly labelled and you should be able to inspect the list of allergens for all dishes on the menu. Ideally, there should be a discussion with the Chef confirming that he or she is able to cater for your needs. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to ask questions to satisfy yourself that the caterer is sufficiently trained and understands the risks associated with an allergic reaction. If you have a serious allergy, you should carry an adrenaline auto-injector with you (ideally two) and make sure the people that are with you know how to use it.

I am a caterer, what should I do?

If you are not sure that you can cater for a customer safely, you must tell them.

You are legally required to comply with the European Food Information to Consumers (FIC)  regulations. You should have allergen management procedures in place for front and back of house. Training your staff is of the utmost importance and there are a number of allergy courses available in order to keep your staff up to date.

Importantly, you should also review your contracts with suppliers. It is recommended that you have a clause within your contract that states you must be updated on any changes to ingredients in any of the products they supply you. A failure to display up to date allergen information on the food you sell/serve can have disastrous consequences.

Communication is key. There should be a clear process to follow when you are advised of a customer’s allergy. The information should be passed from front to back of house and all staff serving your customer should be aware of the allergy requirements. Mistakes can easily be made when the information is not passed on. Remember that the regulations relate to both food and drink and therefore, the bar staff should also be informed of a customer’s allergy.

Help and advice: Allergy UK is a charity providing support and advice for those living with allergies, and their helpline number is 01322 619898. They also provide some helpful guidance for caterers to make sure you do not fall foul of the FIC regulations.

If you have suffered an allergic reaction when eating out or from purchasing food that was poorly labelled, the experienced personal injury team at Farleys can help. We have settled claims on behalf of our clients for thousands of pounds. You can read an example in our case study.

If you are a caterer and you require advice on how to deal with allergen information, or you have received a claim against you, you can contact the Litigation Department for assistance.

Contact Farleys’ Personal Injury team today on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online.