Allergen Regulations

The primary cause of food allergy deaths in the UK are a result of allergic reactions when food is consumed outside the home where allergenic ingredients have not been declared. The aim of regulating food allergens is to ensure that all consumers are given comprehensive information about ingredients to make it easier for people with food allergies to identify food they need to avoid.

Summary of the rules

  • There are 14 allergens that need to be identified if they are used as ingredients in a dish.
  • All food businesses need to provide information about the allergenic ingredients used in foods sold or provided by them.
  • There are also requirements for businesses which provide loose food, such as supermarket food counters, delicatessens, restaurants, takeaways etc.
  • A business serving loose food has to supply information for every item that contains any of the 14 allergens.

How to provide the information

Details of the allergens contained in your foods need to be listed clearly in an obvious place (where the customer will order the food) such as a menu or chalkboard. If this information is not provided upfront you will need to signpost the customer to where it can be obtained, this can either be written or verbally. If the information is provided verbally there must be a way for:

  • this information to be checked by others (verifiable)
  • it to be confirmed as accurate
  • the same information to be given every time (consistent).

Businesses must be aware of the allergens that are in the food they serve, and must not state that all the foods they serve could contain an allergen. A precautionary warning can be provided to indicate that whilst the food does not contain a particular allergen as an ingredient, there is a risk that it may have become cross-contaminated with other allergens in the kitchen. This must be determined on the basis of risk assessment.

Pre-packaged foods

There are specific requirements for pre-packed food.

You can take free food allergy online training, provided by the Food Standards Agency. This provides an overview of the legislation, effects of allergens in the body, how to handle allergens and a short test.

Pre-packed Foods for Direct Sale

Food labelling requirements for prepacked for direct sale food changed on 1 October 2021. For an introduction to allergy labelling visit the Food Standards Agency's website. For more information visit allergen labelling.