A culture of transparency and open dialogue between staff and customers would be a more effective approach to allergen practice than blanket labelling laws, it has been claimed.
The government has begun consulting on changing food allergen information laws, seeking information on four possible options.
– Promote best practice (no change in law)
– Add ‘ask the staff’ stickers to packaging staff would have to provide information orally and in writing if asked
– Label food with the name of the food and list allergens
– Label food with name of food, full ingredients list and with allergens emphasised
Industry trade body UKHospitality is involved in the consultations and believes that promoting best practice and open dialogue between customers and businesses about allergens is the best way to ensure transparency and food safety.
Chief executive Kate Nicholls explained: “When it comes to allergen information and food safety, we take our responsibility extremely seriously and we have been working very closely with our members, the government, Food Standards Agency, consumer groups and other stakeholders to promote best practice.
“As recently as this week UKHospitality has been working with food suppliers and our members to strengthen allergen information and develop consistent industry-wide definitions which go above and beyond legislation. We look forward to responding to the consultation and continued work with stakeholders to find the best, most effective ways to ensure that transparency and safety is promoted, and customers kept safe.”
She said the best way to achieve this is to promote dialogue between customers and staff to ensure that messages get through and that people feel comfortable and confident discussing allergens openly.
“We do not think that a mandatory labelling of all ingredients, or allergen-only ingredients would be the most effective way to keep people safe. There is too great a risk of incorrect labelling and the system would not safeguard against accidental contamination. Additionally, smaller businesses would likely be overwhelmed by any mandatory requirements to label all their food, increasing the possibility of an error.”