Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry, said: “As recent news stories have sadly shown, it is vitally important that allergy sufferers can be provided with 100% accurate information about allergens that may be present in their food. Restaurants, take-aways and sandwich shops need to be absolutely clear about what they’re serving.
“This year Hampshire’s Trading Standards Service has been carrying out intelligence-led inspections of food businesses around the county to see how adequately information is provided in relation to food allergens. This includes the display of an ‘allergens notice’ to alert customers to the use of ingredients which could cause adverse reactions. Worryingly, many of the businesses inspected did not have a system in place that Trading Standards officers were confident would work effectively.
“I would urge businesses to come forward to Trading Standards for advice if they are unsure how to meet industry regulations - our team is always ready to help them.”
Guidance from the Food Standards Agency states that information on 14 allergens should be recorded in various ways, such as product specification sheets; ingredients labels; and recipes or explanations of the dishes, in order to comply with national regulations.
Councillor Perry continued: “We are asking restaurants and food retailers to do their own checks but we are also asking customers to tell us about premises which are not displaying an allergen notice, so that officers can work with those businesses to ensure that they do,and help keep Hampshire residents and visitors as safe as possible.”
During 2018/19 Hampshire Trading Standards is aiming to carry out more than 500 visits and revisits to local businesses to assess the adequacy of allergen information they are providing.
In around two-thirds of businesses inspected so far, the systems in place were not considered adequate. Councillor Perry said: “That is disappointing and worrying as business owners were provided with advice and support on how to comply with national regulations.”
Depending on the nature of the business officers are also checking for excessive levels of artificial colours, undisclosed GM oil and beef traceability in addition to checks regarding health claims on food websites.
Consumers can give their feedback on businesses who aren’t clearly displaying allergen information by visiting Citizens Advice or Hampshire Trading Standards. Hampshire businesses wanting support and advice on how to display allergen details, can also contact Hampshire Trading Standards and follow online guidance.