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Allergens and food labelling

Food businesses in the retail and catering sector are required to provide allergen information and follow labelling rules by law.

This means that food business operators must:

  • provide allergen information to the consumer for both prepacked and non-prepacked food and drink (loose food without packaging)
  • handle and manage food allergens effectively in food preparation

You must do this, even if you don't charge for the food you supply.

The Food Standards Agency has a guide for providing allergen information and best practice for handling allergens.

Allergens you must provide information for

The 14 allergens are: celerycereals containing gluten (such as barley and oats), crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters), eggsfishlupinmilkmolluscs (such as mussels and oysters), mustardpeanutssesamesoybeanssulphur dioxide and sulphites (if they are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million) and tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts).

What you must do

Identify allergens in the food you make or sell

You can do this by carrying out an assessment of the allergens that are present in all the food items that you serve. A simple way to do this is by completing an allergy matrix for the food that is for sale or on your menu. When complete this can also be used as a reference for your customers if requested. Ensure the matrix is regularly reviewed such as when you change specials or when a supplier delivers substitution food items.  

Allergen matrix Word (Word 161 KB)

Provide allergen information to customers

Customers must be provided with information on which allergens the food contains. This can be done by:

  • adding the information to your menu
  • providing an information sheet for customers 
  • verbally - at the point the customer chooses the food they must be advised that they can ask a member of staff about allergens, this could be through:
  • a chalk board at the point of sale
  • a note on your menu
  • a member of staff telling the customer when they order

You can display this allergy and intolerance sign to tell customers how they can find out allergy information, or you can create your own. It is important that when customers contact you either by phone or internet ordering system that you ask the customer if they need information regarding allergens. You must be able to provide advice to customers on any allergens that are contained in the food you produce.

Train your staff

Your staff must be appropriately trained to be able to give consumers up to date and accurate information on allergens, or to refer consumers to the information in written form. To ensure that consistent allergen information is provided, you could consider using a system where staff direct queries to a nominated person who is suitably trained. Find out about allergy training for food businesses

Statistically there is a greater risk of a person dying from an allergy reaction than there is of them dying of food poisoning. Allergen requests must be taken seriously by your employees. Allergen checklists for manager, kitchen staff, front of house staff and delivery staff, with tips on food allergy best practice, are available on the Food Standards Agency website

Other food allergies and intolerances

Consumers may be allergic or have intolerance to other ingredients, but only the 14 allergens are required to be declared by food law. Find out more about food allergy and intolerance.

Food labelling changes from 2021

New food labelling requirements for prepacked for direct sale food will come into force on 1 October 2021 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

These changes will help protect food hypersensitive consumers by requiring more types of food to have potentially lifesaving allergen information provided on the label.  

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Providing allergen information is regulated through the Food Information Regulations 2014 Regulation 5.

Last updated on 15 March 2021