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A precautionary tale for Allergen Labelling

Allergen Accreditation, a partner of CaterCloud, who have been working with catering and hospitality since 2013, focussed a significant amount of attention on the use of ‘may contain’ or ‘made in a factory with …’, plus numerous other label statements that were attached to many products bought by caterers and used in their recipes.

For general pre-packed goods, this is standard practice and universal in any shop, but, for culinary chiefs who prepare wonderful plates of food and serve elegant drinks without any labels or packaging when served to the customer at their tables; the question has been begged as to ‘how do we relay may contain statements to our customers?’

The Allergen Accredited standard is to provide Full Allergen Disclosure.  This means that any may contain ingredients are scrutinised and once a thorough risk assessment has been reviewed or undertaken then the allergen ingredient is listed as ‘contains’ or ‘not’ as the case may be.

If there is no time for proper scrutiny, then the default setting is ‘contains’, this item is then flagged up as requiring further investigation that may well involve speaking with the manufacturer directly.

If you are a caterer making up dishes from scratch, the same principles apply when you inspect your own preparation methods that may involve some element of cross contamination. A great example is French Fries: if you are using the same fryer for fish and the chips then the chips will need to be labelled: Contains Fish.

This is all designed to ensure customer safety and zero confusion when serving personnel are speaking to customers, there is nothing worse when serving staff cannot tell a customer what’s in or not in a dish!

The use of a may contain statement is permissible but caterers do need to follow the guidelines on this.

Here’s the latest update from the FSA so please make sure you read and adapt these principles: https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/precautionary-allergen-labelling

Published on October 13th, 2021

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