Allergen risk in Chichester district highlighted

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ACTION is being taken to address the ‘danger’ posed to the public by allergens in restaurants and shops.

In December, new legislation came in requiring restaurants, cafes and delicatessens to give detailed allergy information on what they are selling.

Speaking at a Chichester District Council meeting on December 22, cabinet member for wellbeing and community services Eileen Lintill was asked what the council’s environmental health team were doing to make sure businesses were up to speed on the changes in the Chichester district.

“There’s still a great deal of confusion about what this will mean for businesses,” said Cllr Lintill.

The new law requires businesses to go into great detail on 14 allergens that are recognised by the authorities as the most common ingredients causing food allergies.

Under the regulations, new rules for businesses serving food mean customers should easily be able to find out what foods contain any of the 14 allergens.

There are also rules for businesses selling pre-packaged food.

The rules state what the firms must do, but it is yet to see exactly how restaurants will choose to comply with the rules.

The mandatory information should be easily accessible, in a conspicuous place and easily visible.

“It’s not clear in practice how they will choose to do this,” Cllr Lintill told the full council meeting.

“It’s not permissable for a business just to have a blanket statement saying their foods may contain allergens.”

She said the council’s role was to work with businesses and help them adhere to the new regulations.

The matter of enforcement would largely rest with West Sussex County Council’s trading standards department, which Cllr Lintill said would deal with ‘serious non-compliance’.

“We’re working with other agencies to make sure our district remains as safe as possible,” she said.

She was initially asked the question by cabinet member for the environment John Connor.

“I’m very concerned that the danger to a large number of people from allergens may not be completely in the public knowledge and hope now it will be,” he said.

The 14 ingredients are cereals, eg gluten, crustaceans, egg, fish, peanuts, soy beans, milk, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seeds, sulphur dioxides, lupin and molluscs.

The environmental health team can be reached at environmentalhealth@chichester.gov.uk or telephone 01243 534602.