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Allergen focus on Essex catering outlets

9 October 2017

Test purchases have been carried out in the past year at a number of Essex catering outlets to test if takeaways are applying the rules around signage making customers aware that food may contain allergens.
Caterers are required to communicate allergen information to customers on menus or displays, or they can tell people about allergens if a notice invites customers to ask.
The biggest failure rate so far this year has shown to be at kebab takeaways, where there have been eight failures out of nine premises tested for milk. 
The latest outlets that have failed the milk allergen information test will receive extensive advice on the handling of allergens and given guidance to ensure they are aware of the law.
These latest failures came after a series of previous tests saw two local kebab outlets fail following samples taken analysing for the presence of soya. A failure to comply, twice, during initial formal sampling has now seen the prosecution of two separate outlet owners - one in Colchester and one in Great Dunmow.
In December 2014, the law on allergen information changed to include non-prepacked foods and in particular caterers / restaurants / takeaways.
Essex Trading Standards has been a leading authority in this area of work with caterers, starting programmed activity in 2010 in advance of the legislation.
Cllr Sue Barker, Cabinet Member for Culture, Communities and Customer, said: “Unlike prepacked foods bought from retail establishments, caterers have the option to give allergen information to consumers verbally; there is no requirement by law for them to label their foods with this information. 
“In the interest of public safety, it is important to advise consumers that there will always be an element of risk when eating out as these foods are not prepared in a controlled environment. 
“It is the role of Essex Trading Standards to offer advice and guidance to bring caterers up to speed and compliant where Allergens are concerned.”
Essex Trading Standards have been working proactively with businesses to inform them of their obligations in relation to allergens.  Businesses that have been involved in allergen testing so far have received a number of advice visits along with materials to help them train and inform their staff. 
These businesses are currently being retested. Essex Trading Standards would only consider prosecution action when businesses consistently prove that they do not comply with food safety legislation.