Food Allergens

Allergen Advice

In the UK around 10 people die every year due to food allergies, with around 4,500 hospitalisations. Legislation regarding food labelling came into force in December 2014 Food Information Regulations 2014.  Changes to the allergen labelling requirements came into force from 1st October 2021, which are known as Natasha’s Law.  

The 14 Allergens 

Information must be made available for every item of food a business provides/serves that contains any of the following 14 specified allergens: 

The 14 Allergens that must be declared are:  

  • Celery 
  • Cereals Containing Gluten (such as barley and oats) 
  • Crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters) 
  • Eggs 
  • Fish 
  • Lupin 
  • Milk 
  • Molluscs (such as mussels and oysters),  
  • Mustard 
  • Peanuts 
  • Sesame 
  • Soybeans 
  • Sulphur Dioxide and Sulphites (at a concentration of more than ten parts per million)  
  • Tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, and macadamia nuts). 

This list has been identified by food law as the most potent and prevalent allergens. 

Advice for consumers: 

This legislation requires foods you buy from shops to have the allergens emphasised in the ingredients list either underlined, in bold, or highlighted text. 

Food when dining out: 

Pubs, restaurants, and cafes must provide allergen information in writing to customers, either in full on a menu, chalkboard or in an information pack, or there must be a clearly visible written notice explaining how they can obtain this information. In cases where these businesses are selling Prepacked for Direct Sale (PPDS), then they must comply with the allergen labelling requirements. 

These rules only cover 14 major allergens (allergy and intolerance). If you are allergic to any other food that is not on the regulatory list or suffer a food intolerance,  you should still make the business aware before you order so they can check the recipe for you. 

The kitchen must keep information on all their meal ingredients to ensure they can identify food allergens in all their menu items. 

For more information, please visit the Food Standards Agency website Food allergy and intolerance | Food Standards Agency

What do businesses need to do? 

Businesses must make information available for every food item it provides that contains any of the 14 allergens. To meet with the legislation food businesses must do the following: 

  • Have details listed clearly in an obvious place such as on the menu, on a chalk board, in an information pack or provided orally by staff 

  • If information is not provided upfront the food business will need to ensure that customers are signposted to where they can obtain the information, for example, having a sign stating 'For allergy information, please speak to a member of staff'. 

  • If the information is being provided orally businesses must ensure there is a way for the information to be checked by others and to be given consistently (written records). 

  • Food being sold at a distance e.g. telephone order takeaways, the information must be provided before the purchase is complete (either orally or written) and in a written format when the food is delivered. 

  • Businesses must look carefully at each menu item they are selling/serving, looking at all the ingredients included within that product. Don't forget to think about every component of a food product, down to any oils, sauces or garnishes used. 

  • Keep records as to where information on allergens has come from e.g. copies of labels/ suppliers' details. 

  • Review the information regularly, in particularly when there is a change of menu or recipe or if a different brand of an ingredient or different supplier is used. 

  • Train staff and keep them informed. 

  • Make sure allergen information is easily accessible. Do not rely on one member of staff alone to be able to provide the information. 

  • Make sure controls are in place to prevent cross contamination of foods. Thoroughly clean work surfaces, hands and equipment between uses. 

  • Document the controls that have been put in place in your food safety management system.

Advice for Businesses selling Prepacked for Direct Sale : 

As a business you will need to determine whether the food you sell is food prepared to order for immediate consumption or packaged food. On October 1st 2021 Natasha's Law came into effect changing the requirements for how  (PPDS) food is labelled.  

PPDS is food that is prepared, prepacked and offered or sold to consumers on the same premises. It can include food you select yourself (e.g., from a display unit) as well as products kept behind a counter. 

  • If you are packaging food, the allergens need to be emphasised in the ingredients list either underlined, in bold, or highlighted text. You can no longer have a separate declaration of allergens present.  

  • If you are selling packaged food from a market stall for example, you need to state the name of the food item alongside an ingredients list with the allergens emphasised.  

  • Restaurants, takeaways, canteens, cafes etc. need to be able to tell customers what allergens are present in their meals. It is not an option to say that you don’t know. This information can be on the menu/price list, or you can have a notice prominently displayed requesting customers to ask a staff member about advice on allergens.  

  • If you pre-pack items in anticipation of orders i.e., Prawn crackers, Poppadums, Salads, sauce pots etc.; these must also be labelled with the food item name and an ingredients list with the allergens emphasised.  

More information can be found on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website: Allergen labelling changes for prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) food | Food Standards Agency 

What can happen if a business fails to comply? 

Lack of information or information that is incorrect can be fatal and there can be heavy consequences for a business. 

A restaurant owner was jailed for 6 years for manslaughter after a customer, who was allergic to peanuts, died after eating a curry which claimed to be 'nut free'. Paul Wilson, 38, suffered a severe anaphylactic shock after eating a takeaway curry which contained peanuts from an Indian restaurant in North Yorkshire. 

The customer specifically requested 'no nuts' in his meal when he ordered a chicken tikka masala from the restaurant in January 2014. Despite the lid of the container being labelled 'no nuts', the curry contained peanuts, to which Paul Wilson was allergic and which caused his death. 

To save money, the owner had switched from using almond powder to a cheaper nut mix which contained peanuts. The owner had failed to make his customers aware of this and continued to make and sell curries which he claimed to be 'nut free'. 

Further Information 

The Food Standards Agency has produced resources for allergen which includes online training and guidance leaflets for businesses and consumers. 

The 'Allergen information for loose foods' leaflet has been translated into a further 9 languages. They are attached to this page. 

Food allergy online training 

Allergen management and labelling for pre-packed foods (May contain labelling) provides best practice guidance on managing food allergens with particular reference to avoiding cross-contamination and using appropriate advisory labelling. 


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