HOW TO INDICATE ALLERGENS ON THE MENU
How to report food allergens on the menu? Is it mandatory to indicate them? And which allergens should be listed? Here are the answers and the methods to create a menu in line with the Regulation
From December 13, 2014, food supply activities, such as restaurants, must inform consumers about allergens.
A few days later, on February 6, 2015, the Ministry of Health gave indications to restaurants and all the other activities (canteens, catering, hospitals, etc.), taking into account the EU Regulation 1169/2011, in which the main allergens that need to be declared have been synthesized.
What are the allergens to declare?
According to EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, food allergens scientifically proven as dangerous are:
1. Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelled, kamut or their hybridized strains and derived products.
2. Crustaceans and products thereof.
3. Eggs and products thereof.
4. Fish and products thereof.
5. Peanuts and products thereof.
6. Soy and products thereof.
7. Milk and products thereof (including lactose).
8. Nuts, namely: almonds (Amygdalus communis L.), hazelnuts (Corylus avellana), walnuts (Juglans regia), cashews (Anacardium occidentale), pecan nuts (Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch), Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa), pistachio nuts (Pistacia vera), macadamia or Queensland nuts (Macadamia ternifolia), and products thereof, except for nuts used for making alcoholic distillates including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin;
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/liter in terms of the total SO2 which are to be calculated for products as proposed ready for consumption or as reconstituted according to the instructions of the manufacturers.
13. Lupins and products thereof.
14. Mollusks and products thereof.
Of course, the list is not exhaustive. These foods are the ones most recognized as dangerous. Nevertheless, there are people allergic or intolerant to anything from the olive oil to strawberries, etc.
What is the difference between a person suffering from allergy and an intolerant?
Briefly: allergy sufferers can have an adverse immunological reaction to food. This happens because the immune system of those affected perceives some foods as foreign and dangerous for the body. Significant allergies can also lead to death: it is the sad case of Chiara Ribechini, allergic to eggs and milk, whose terrible misfortune points out how much attention is needed in the preparation of food where raw materials often change.
Those who are intolerant to a food, on the other hand, do not have the proper enzymes to metabolize and assimilate certain food constituents.
How to report allergens?
Every restaurateur must provide information on food allergens. He is given certain freedom of choice on how to indicate them on the menu. Of course, it is mandatory to do it. Unfortunately, however, many businesses are not up to standard. However, there are 4 main methods of reporting. Among them, there is the digital one too, which must also be accompanied by adequate written documentation, and should meet those who are not familiar with technology. The personnel involved in the preparation, sale and administration of food must also be trained and informed. At the same time, they must also sign a self-certification for acknowledgment.
The allergens information can be reported on special registers available to the consumer in plain sight, on signs placed adjacent to the products or on the menus.
The obligation to inform consumers about the presence of allergens in food is considered to be fulfilled in the following cases:
• indicating directly on the signs, on the registers or on the menus the presence of the allergens in each preparation;
• stating in writing, clearly and in a visible place, wording such as “the information about the presence of substances or products causing allergies or intolerances are available by contacting the staff in service”;
• indicating in writing on the signs, on the registers or on the menus, wording such as “for any information about allergens it is possible to consult the related documentation that will be provided, upon request, by the staff in service”.
Also, there are several ways to communicate allergens on the menu graphically. Here are some examples from the menutech.com website
Multilingual à la carte with allergens
Menu for children with colored icons
Elegant menu with allergen icons in the center
Therefore restaurateurs have considerable freedom of choice regarding how to report allergens. Also graphically, there are many ways to illustrate them on the menu. It must be understood, however, that to state allergens on the menus or with appropriate sheets is not only mandatory by law, but it is also important and decisive towards people whose allergies can be fatal. More than to avoid fines, therefore, proper reporting is essential to prevent misfortune and to take care of the interests and health of customers.
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)