Eat Without Fear of Food Allergies this New Year
Christmas time goes hand in hand with food like mistletoe and wine, as Sir Cliff Richard once sang, but, if you suffer from food allergies, it can feel quite frustrating knowing what is safe to eat over the festive season. Thankfully, this year, will be a bit easier when choosing food from the supermarket shelf and selecting meals when dining out, with a new set of rules set by the EU.
The new EU food labelling rules, which were set on 13 December 2014, aim to ensure consumers receive clearer, more comprehensive and accurate information on food content, and help them make informed choices about what they eat.
“European citizens will see the results of years of work to improve food labelling rules,” says Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety. “Key content information will now be more clearly marked on labels, helping people make informed choices on the food they buy. The new rules put the consumer first by providing clearer information, and in a way that is manageable for businesses.”
Dining Out Without Fear
The Christmas season is a time for dining out, but for those with food allergies it may seem more trouble than it’s worth. But, due to the new legislation, dining out over the festive season this year will be much easier than it has ever been. Restaurants are now required by law to provide information on the allergens in all dishes on their menus, with the general “may contain nuts” disclaimer no longer being enough.
Under the new legislation of the EU FIC Food Information for Consumers Regulation, customers must be told if meals contains specific foods. This includes any fish, milk, nuts, mustard and soya, as well as cereals containing gluten, such as wheat, rye and barley. This list of foods also includes egg, including food glazed with egg, and celery, including any in stock cubes and soup.
The new law requires this information to be provided either in writing or instructions clearly signposted as to where the information can be found. Certain members of staff may also be trained to relay such details to customers.
Putting Your Health First
It’s one of our traits in Britain to worry about being too pushy in a restaurant and not ask too many questions, alongside the constant need to be polite. If our hot main meal arrives cold, many of us won’t like to send it back, for example. But when it comes to food allergies, it’s essential to lose some of that great British reserve and put you and your health first. This does not come under the heading of being a fussy customer; it’s about taking sensible steps to make sure your needs are met and ensure your health and safety.
As mentioned the waiter, or waitress, is likely to explain certain foods, included in meals, to you. But, if you are unsure about anything, you mustn’t hesitate to ask. It is also a good idea to make a phone call to the restaurant in advance of your visit to discuss your requirements. Even with the new legislation in place, it would be annoying to arrive for a meal and find that what you fancy to eat is not safe for you. The restaurant should be able to offer you some good food alternatives which don’t include foods you are allergic to. If the catering team know about your food allergies in advance, it will give them chance to adapt various dishes to suit you and your needs.
Food Labelling for Health and Safety
The new legislation means it will no longer be difficult to know what food is safe for you to buy in the supermarket and when shopping online, if you have food allergies. Products are now being designed to include clear, well explained labelling about what they contain on the superstore shelf, with the equivalent information explained on supermarket online sites.
Key changes to food labelling rules include: using a minimum font size for mandatory information; clearer and harmonised presentation of allergens, such as soy, nuts, gluten and lactose for prepacked foods, with an emphasis on font, style or background colour in the list of ingredients; and mandatory origin information for fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry. Other details include listing engineered nanomaterials in food ingredients; providing specific information on the vegetable origin of refined oils and fats; indicating substitute ingredient for ‘imitation’ foods; and clear indication of “formed meat” or “formed fish” and defrosted products.
The European Commission says food business operators have been given three years to ensure a smooth transition towards the new labelling regime for prepacked and non-prepacked foods. The commission says it has been working together with businesses to ensure that the new rules will be properly implemented.