‘Wet house’ – an allergen ‘grey area’
The FSAI hosted a ‘breakfast briefing’ this morning to bring caterers – and others with an interest in serving food to the public – up-to-date before the introduction of the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation on December 13th.
Isinglass/fish fining is exempt from the new allergen legislation stated Dr Patrick O’Mahony, Chief Specialist, Food Technology at FSAI, who gave the presentation.
Other ‘exempted’ products included vegetable oils that may have fried fish before being used to fry chips. However if a food is fried using peanut oil, for example, this requires the customer to be allergen notified.
It also transpired at the presentation that the ‘wet house’ remains something of a grey area for the FSAI and the legislation when it comes to ‘wet’ pubs hosting community functions that make use of food brought in by one of the guests such as sandwiches for a funeral or wedding cake – foodstuffs not prepared by a professional.
The best course of action in such cases would be to ask for a list of ingredients from the person supplying the fare and put up a note to the effect that allergens are present should that be the case, advised Dr Pat O’Mahony.
Liability remained unclear, he added.
Otherwise, allergens contained in some cocktails could be notified to the consumer via the cocktails list and while use of a chalkboard to highlight allergens in foodstuffs or drinks in the pub was not favoured, it was not against the law either.
Indeed daily specials are often placed on chalkboards and these would need to notify the consumer of any allergens present in the dish.
But such chalkboards must be clear and legible, he added – the FSAI would discourage use of symbols in this context – and the premises must identify what exactly contains the specific allergen.
Written allergen information can be displayed in many places around the premises or in one central location.
Obvious foodstuffs such as ‘milk’ or ‘cod’ don’t need to be identified, but if more than one allergen is contained in a dish then these need to be identified in writing.
A central folder containing allergen information at a food station such as a buffet would also be acceptable but caterers should beware cross-contamination in the kitchen or at a buffet station where some one has used the same utensil to pick out different foods.
In this case, possible cross-contamination could be highlighted by placing a sign to the effect ‘may contain wheat’ or ‘prepared in a kitchen that uses nuts’ in an appropriate place on the menu or at some other central point.
If the premises take in non-prepackaged food from a local supplier it’s up to the local supplier to inform the premises of any allergens in the food after which the responsibility for informing consumers transfers to the caterer/proprietor.
On a more straightforward note, he described the regulations in relation to beers as being something of a ‘moving feast’ and so if anyone is in doubt, they should phone the IFSA helpline.
Weissbeers, for example, require customers to be notified, while it was simply not possible to legislate for a cocktail where the ingredients have been stipulated by the customers themselves.
Presumably such a customer would be aware of their own intolerances in regard to allergens.
For more information contact FSAI on its Advice Line: 1890336677.