With less than six months to go until the introduction of new allergen legislation, research conducted for Unilever Food Solutions has revealed that over half of care providers (53%) are unaware of the new law.
Almost 60% of care providers were unable to identify the allergens (59.3%), despite more than three quarters (76%) of them saying they were sometimes, or frequently, asked for information by residents and their families.
Nearly 40% (38.6%) of operators have read about the new law in the media and a third have obtained information from the Food Standards Agency. Just 13% received information from their environmental health officer. Operators are now looking for help to prepare for the legislation change, with 56% of care providers saying they will ask more questions of their suppliers.
Wendy Duncan, technical manager for Unilever Food Solutions, said: “It’s apparent from our survey and queries we’re getting from our customers, that operators are concerned about the new laws. Less than 10% of care businesses said they felt ready for the change. 88% of care providers told us that they would like a handbook to help them prepare and over a quarter (28%) believe they need to invest more in training.
“Anticipating this demand we’ve produced a simple-to-use allergen and diets guide for professional caterers. This gives clear and practical advice to help operators prepare for December. It includes detailed information about the 14 allergens, what foods and products may contain them, and hints and tips on how to make substitutions on their menus. The guide makes an ideal tool to help operators train their staff and there’s an online quiz to test employee knowledge about allergens.”
The Government announced the decision to extend the existing allergen regulations in October 2011, effectively giving operators a three-year period to integrate the information into their businesses. However, when questioned 92% of care providers polled felt that the changes have not been well communicated by the Government.
The legislation comes into force on 13 December 2014. It requires operators to be able to answer any consumer queries on allergens in the food they sell and give information on 14 allergens: eggs, milk, crustaceans (shellfish),molluscs, fish, peanuts, sesame, soya, sulphur dioxide, nuts, cereals containing gluten, celery, mustard and lupin.
The Unilever Food Solutions tools are free and downloadable here: www.ufs.com/allergens