Restaurants required to inform customers of the presence of allergens in their gastronomic dishes

Allergies or food intolerances are the order of the day in our society. In the last 15 years, the total number of allergic or food-intolerant individuals has doubled at global level, and it is becoming more and more common to encounter someone in our close circle of acquaintances who cannot tolerate certain foods or substances.

This type of food intolerance and the lack of information available in the professional catering sector have very much complicated the consumption of certain foods outside the home. The sole preventive measure in existence to date has been to exclude food and ingredients that may provoke a food intolerance or allergy from diet.

This lack of information will come to an end on 13 December, the date chosen to introduce European Union Regulation 1169/2011 (a regulation approved on 25 October 2011). This regulation will consolidate all existing legislation concerning food labelling and will regulate all foods offered without packaging for sale to end consumers.

Moreover, it should be noted that each country is to establish their own regulations to determine the best way of getting this information to consumers. In Spain, the Spanish Agency for Food Safety plans to approve a Royal Decree which upholds that information on this type of allergen be provided orally or in writing. In the case of oral information, it should be noted that a written and/or electronic document must always be given to the end consumer.

Ease of information and consumption without risk

With this regulation, the European Union seeks to equalise the rights of individuals with food intolerances or allergies by means of information. With this measure, individuals with some type of allergy or food intolerance will always know what they can or cannot eat, without requiring identification. The process aims to increase their safety and peace of mind at all times.

With respect to the type of allergens to be notified, the law establishes as obligatory ‘information about any ingredient that causes allergies or food intolerances and which is used in the manufacture or preparation of a food and continues to be present in the finished product, even in a modified form’. Failure to provide this information may result in sanctions for the catering establishments.

Regarding the food groups, it should be noted that restaurants will be required to give information about the following 14 food groups that may cause an allergy or food intolerance:

1. Cereals containing gluten, i.e. wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut or their hybridised strains and products thereof.

2. Crustaceans and products thereof.

3. Eggs and products thereof.

4. Fish and products thereof.

5. Peanuts and products thereof.

6. Soybeans and products thereof.

7. Milk and products thereof (including lactose).

8. Nuts, i.e. almonds, hazel nuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia nuts and Queensland nuts and products thereof.

9. Celery and products thereof.

10. Mustard and products thereof.

11. Sesame seeds and products thereof.

12. Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/litre expressed in total SO2, for products ready for use or reconstituted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

13. Lupin and products thereof.

14. Molluscs and products thereof.

Restalergia, an application aimed at helping professionals from the catering sector

To help comply to this regulation, all members of the catering sector will have access to an application called ‘restalergia’, a web application that offers information about the allergens that must be notified to their customers. This application is intended to make the process of change easier for professionals from the sector and therefore avoid major economic sanctions.

Without a doubt, the regulation is excellent news for those individuals with a food intolerance or allergy and at the same time implies a major effort for the catering sector. What do you think of the new regulation?

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