The changes to the Food Information Regulation (FIR) will affect every restaurant, hotel, pub, takeaway, motorway service station, café owner and festival caterer, as well as schools, hospitals and prison meals services.
They will have to accurately track, record and communicate to the public what menu items contain any of the 14 foods most commonly causing allergic reactions, such as nuts, shellfish and eggs.
The challenge would be greatest for restaurants that frequently changed recipe or menu items, pop-up or event caterers, and establishments with high staff turnover, said the BHA. Smaller establishments might also struggle with the resources to track, identify and record all allergens used from main dishes through to garnishes and drinks, it added.
As a result, the BHA calculated it could cost the industry up to £200M a year to implement new sourcing and management processes, adapt menus and websites and regularly brief and train staff.
A total of 8bn out-of-home meals are served every year, the BHA has claimed. Up to two percent of people are food allergy sufferers and 20% of people believe they have some kind of food allergy according to NHS figures. As a result, there could be millions of requests for information for food businesses to deal with, said the BHA.
The new EU regulations, which come into force on December 13, seek to provide the public with better information about the foods they are eating. The BHA is launching a guidance toolkit designed by its food advisory team, members and Bond Dickinson to help hotels, restaurants and caterers implement the new regulations and cope with these requests for information.
“These new regulations … will make it easier for people to get information about which allergens are present in the food they are eating out of home,” said Jackie Grech, policy director for the BHA.
“Food businesses will be expected to learn how best to communicate these new regulations to their customers and the BHA this week is launching a toolkit, forum and workshops to help food businesses of all sizes.”