Posted on: 05 March 2019 (updated on 23 April)

Do you know what is in your food?

BBC Watchdog recently found that some of the biggest restaurant and cafe chains in the UK are not giving the correct allergy information to customers. Since December 2014 it has been a legal requirement that any restaurant or takeaway in Europe must tell their customers if their food will contain any key allergens. In light of these recent finding we take a look at what customers need to know and how to prepare your restaurant or takeaway to cater for customers with allergies.

What do customers need to know?

Under the 2014 legislation, your customers are entitled to know the allergens that food on your menu may contain. If a customer does not have the information and is allergic to any food on your menu, it could lead to a potentially fatal reaction.

What are the major food allergens?

As outlined by the Food Standards Agency, the major food allergens are:

  • Cereals that contain gluten
  • Crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs or lobsters)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Milk (including lactose)
  • Tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios or macadamia nuts)
  • Celery
  • Mustard
  • Sesame
  • Sulphur Dioxide and other sulphites
  • Lupin
  • Molluscs (such as mussels or oysters)

Training your staff

Your waiting staff are the face of your establishment for your customers and are responsible for taking orders. Training them in giving advice about your menu is essential to giving both correct information and customer service.

Know the menu

Making sure that your staff know not just what is on the menu, but also knowing the ingredients used, will give them the confidence to explain the allergens that the dish might contain to customers. To help prepare your staff, you could create information packs for your staff for them to take home or leave in social areas so that they can read up on the ingredients that you use.

Allergen training courses

There are training courses available for a little as £20 per person that can either be taken online or by having a trainer visit your premises. iHasco are a training company who can provide training for as little as £4.50 for a course, and are approved by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

Make information accessible

It is unlikely that staff will be able to remember all 14 allergens off the top of their head, so make sure that the information is easy to access if a member of staff is asked about allergens. Perhaps have a section of your menu with the information on, or a laminated cheat sheet for staff to keep in their pockets.

Make the learning enjoyable

Learning about food allergens might not be the most interesting topic for your staff, but that doesn’t mean that training has to be boring. Why not make a quick quiz for your staff who can complete it as teams or test each other. You could even reward winners with a food or drink voucher.


The UK’s Foods Standards Agency has launched their #easytoASK campaign to spread awareness about food allergies. Their research found that 41% of young people, aged 16-24, weren’t confident in asking restaurant staff about allergens in their food.

Restaurants who are members of the Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association (PAPA) have been given permission to use a specially designed logo on their premises to support the #easytoASK campaign in their restaurants. If you are a member of an association, get in touch with them to see if you can also support the campaign.

Food and Hospitality Insurance

The food and hospitality industry was expected to be worth over £100bn in 2018, but has a massive amount of diversity in the type of businesses in the sector. This creates the need for a tailored insurance package that suits your business, rather than a one size fits all approach.

Premier BusinessCare has a wealth of experience in arranging food, hospitality and leisure insurance with some of the UK’s leading insurance providers. Speak to one of our trained insurance advisors to find your perfect insurance policy today.

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