Coeliac UK, the national charity for people with coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease caused by a reaction to gluten, welcomes a new EU regulation on allergen labelling in catering outlets and for retailers from 13 December 2014, as providing more certainty for people with coeliac disease in managing their condition.
The new EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation will require food businesses to provide information on ingredients which are allergens, in food sold unpackaged across all catering establishments as well as introducing changes to existing legislation on pre-packed food.
AdvertisementThe new rules will mean all food businesses including restaurants, cafes, deli counters, bakeries and sandwich bars will need to inform customers if any of 14 allergens¹ are included in the ingredients in the food they serve. If the food is not packaged, this can be communicated to customers in writing on menus or verbally through explanations by staff. It must be clear where or how the information can be found. However, the new rules do not require businesses to declare any risk of cross contamination.
Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK, explained: "Making sure businesses provide clear, unambiguous information to customers enables people with coeliac disease to shop and eat out safely and confidently. The new regulation means people with coeliac disease will have a better understanding if food they purchase from a supermarket or order at a food venue contains gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. Although the rules are a great step forward, for total peace of mind, we are encouraging all caterers and retailers to label food gluten-free to show their customers what they can eat without fear of cross contamination.
"Catering businesses will also benefit significantly as research shows people with coeliac disease - and the family and friends they eat out with - are worth a potential £100 million a year to venues willing to provide dishes labelled gluten-free. For businesses that have already taken up this option the impact on their bottom line is overwhelmingly positive".
One in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease, with the prevalence rising to 1 in 10 for close family members. However, current statistics show that only 24% of those with the condition are diagnosed leaving an estimated half a million people in the UK undiagnosed.
"Coeliac disease is not an allergy, but the only treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet and left untreated may lead to osteoporosis and small bowel cancer. Although provision for those on a gluten-free diet has improved greatly over the last few years, we know many of our Members still struggle to find clear information about ingredients and this new regulation will provide greater confidence for the coeliac community," Ms Sleet said.
"To help both the private and public catering sectors we have launched training courses which looks at the challenges faced by people with coeliac disease, the legal requirements associated with gluten-free labelling and how to cater for this growing need. The courses also provide attendees with the knowledge and confidence to deliver a wide range of tasty, safe gluten-free food, within the boundaries of the law." More information can be found at: www.coeliac.org.uk/courses.
The symptoms of coeliac disease range from mild to severe and can vary between individuals. Not everyone with coeliac disease experiences gut related symptoms; any area of the body can be affected. Symptoms can include bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, wind, tiredness, anaemia, headaches, mouth ulcers, weight loss (but not in all cases), skin problems, depression, joint or bone pain and nerve problems.
Although the new EU rules are coming into force in December 2014, they were published in October 2011, to give food businesses three years to get ready for the new provisions.