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.
The 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.