Act now over food regulations or face a fine

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Restaurants and cafes are running out of time to ensure they meet the deadline to comply with new European food regulations, law firm Blake Morgan warns.

John Mitchell, a health and safety law expert at Blake Morgan, is reminding food businesses that new regulations on food labelling are due to come into effect in December – and companies which fail to comply face a hefty fine.

The EU regulation No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers requires that 14 specific allergens are clearly signposted on food packaging, and most manufacturers have already complied.

But many cafes, restaurants and catering businesses may be unaware that the rules also apply to them. Even when they are serving up food they have cooked themselves, as well as food that has been removed from its packaging, staff should be ready to answer questions on ingredients and about which allergens may be present.

John Mitchell, a partner in the regulatory, risk and compliance team at Blake Morgan, said: “Restaurants, cafes and takeaways may not realise that the new rules carry huge implications for any business that serves food to its customers.

“Business owners and their staff need to be ready to quickly and accurately answer questions on which allergens, such as gluten, eggs, fish and nuts, are present in the dishes on offer. It may be helpful to have a list of ingredients for each menu item at hand to ensure that the information is readily available.

“Businesses could at any time be inspected by environmental health officers and failure to comply with food regulations can carry a fine of up to £5,000 per offence. Companies also leave themselves open to legal action if they serve up food containing allergens to an allergy sufferer who has asked for information about ingredients and has ordered on the basis of incorrect information.

“Time to ensure compliance really is running short and any business owner who is unsure about the rules and how they might be applied should make sure they take advice as soon as possible.”