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Food Businesses Still Not Doing Enough to Provide Written Allergen Information to Consumers

Monday, 1 October 2018

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has stated that whilst there is some evidence of increased awareness and compliance by food service businesses to provide accurate written information on 14 specified allergens in non-prepacked food for their customers, more needs to be done to ensure consumer health is protected. The FSAI today released findings of a survey* that shows 2 out of 5 adults (43%) are unaware that food businesses must provide consumers with accurate written allergen information in relation to the food they are serving or selling and 1 in 5 (20%) believe food businesses are not doing enough to inform them about the allergens in their food. All food businesses are legally obliged to provide consumers with accurate written information in relation to 14 specified allergens** whether the food is prepacked or non-prepacked. The FSAI also launched a national information campaign today to re-enforce and remind food businesses of their legal obligations.

Commenting today, Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI said many food businesses are still not compliant and continue to break the law by not providing written accurate allergen information for their customers.

    “Not providing or providing inaccurate written allergen information for customers was cited as one of the reasons Closure Orders were served on 7 food businesses since September 2017. Environmental health officers will continue to take action where they find non-compliance with the law during their inspections. While there are many food businesses that are compliant, there still continues to be many who are not. The survey found that 1 in 10 adults in Ireland say that they have a food allergy or food intolerance. Allergic reactions to food make people ill and in particular situations can be fatal. Whether you’re running a café, hotel, pub, restaurant, takeaway, deli, food van or market stall, we are urging you to provide accurate written allergen information for your customers, as required by law”.

The results of the research also reveal:

  • 4 out of 5 people (88%) agree that it is good that food businesses are legally required to provide written information on food allergens
  • Restaurants (77%), cafés (71%), and hotels (69%) perform relatively strongly, with most people having seen written allergen information in these food businesses
  • Over 2 out of 3 people say they have not seen written allergen information displayed at food stalls at markets (74%), child care facilities (66%), staff canteens (64%), farmers/food markets (74%) and food vans/ice cream vans (82%).
  • Whilst 4 out of 5 people say it is more common to see allergen information than five years ago, approximately 3 out of 10 people find the allergen information that they have seen as difficult to understand.

    “Our Advice Line handled some 64 consumer complaints about unavailable or incorrect written allergen information in food businesses and we welcome the general public informing us, so that we can take action. Our Advice Line is also there to support food businesses to do the right thing and we have a range of materials – including an information booklet, poster and free online tool, MenuCal, to help them become compliant,” Dr Byrne concludes.

To stress the gravity of the need for allergen information to be displayed and to raise further awareness of the legal requirement, the FSAI’s national information campaign starts today across print, online and broadcast media. With strong messages it highlights the potential fatal consequences that missing or inaccurate allergen information can have on an individual’s health.

For more information on how to comply with the legal requirements, food businesses can visit www.fsai.ie/allergens. The FSAI is hosting a free Breakfast Bite event on food allergen labelling from 8am to 9:20am on Tuesday 9th October at its offices, The Exchange, George’s Dock, IFSC, Dublin 1. Booking is required and further information is available at www.fsai.ie/events.



* RED C nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults undertaken 6th – 10th September 2018
** There are 14 allergens that must be declared by law:

  • Cereals containing gluten - wheat (such as spelt and khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats
  • Crustaceans e.g. crabs, prawns, lobsters
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Milk
  • Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macademia/Queensland nut)
  • Celery
  • Mustard
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sulphur Dioxide and sulphites (at concentrations of more than 10mg/kg or 10mg/L in terms of total sulphur dioxide) – used as a preservative
  • Lupin
  • Molluscs e.g. mussels, oysters, squid, snails