As a business owner, it is your legal obligation to serve food that is safe and suitable for your customers and to be aware food sensitives (allergens or additives in food).
- how to become an allergen aware food business
- how to implement a food allergen matrix in your business
What are food allergens and intolerances?
A food allergen is an immune response to a particular food and can be life threatening
Food allergens the must be declared include:
- crustaceans and their products
- peanuts and their products
- tree nuts and their products
- sesame seeds and their products
- fish and fish products
- egg and egg products
- milk and milk products
- gluten and cereals containing gluten
- added sulphites (concentrations 10mg/kg+)
A food intolerance is not related to an immune response, rather a chemical reaction. While it is not life threatening, it can be uncomfortable and debilitating.
Common intolerance foods include:
- lactose in cow’s milk
- flavour enhancers (e.g. MSG)
- food additives
- strawberries, citrus fruits and tomatoes
- histamine and amines.
How to identify food allergens in your products
Step one: obtain an accurate list of all ingredients for each food product you produce (including compound ingredients and processing aids).
Step two: familiarise yourself with the food allergen fact sheets.
Step three: assess each ingredient to determine whether it is an allergen. Use the allergen fact sheets to assist you as well as carefully checking labels and information from suppliers. Visit the food standards website to access food additive information (see Standard 1.3.1 for information on food additives).
Step four: keep all details of ingredients for each menu item with your food allergen matrix (mentioned below) for easy reference.
Step five: develop your allergen matrix. Update the matrix as needed.
Step six: identify cross-contamination risks at your premises by assessing all food preparation and storage processes (check you FSP v3).
Implement the food allergen matrix
Use the matrix as a quick reference tool to identify food allergens that are present within foods and/or meals.
Once established within a food premise it needs to be updated regularly, especially when new foods are added to menus or existing ones are changed, and staff will need to be trained on how to interpret the information.
While it is good customer service to provide information about whether your food is halal or vegetarian, this is not a legal requirement. It is a legal requirement to provide information on common allergens.