Allergen guidance for food businesses (2023)

Food businessoperators in the retail and catering sector are required to provide allergen information and follow labelling rules as set out in food law.

This means that food businessoperators must:

  • provide allergen information to the consumer for both prepackedand non-prepackedfood and drink
  • handle and manage food allergens effectively in food preparation.

Food businesses must make sure that staff receive training on allergens. Staff and managers can complete and share our:

  • free food allergy training
  • allergen checklist for tips on food allergy best-practice

We have separate guidance for food manufacturersand institutional caterers.

14 allergens

Food businesses need to tell customers if any food they provide contain any of the listed allergens as an ingredient.

Consumers may be allergic or have intolerance to other ingredients, but only the 14 allergensare required to be declared as allergens by food law.

The 14 allergens are: celery, cereals containing gluten (such as wheat, barley and oats), crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters), eggs, fish, lupin, milk,molluscs (such as mussels and oysters), mustard, peanuts, sesame, soybeans, sulphur dioxide and sulphites(if the sulphur dioxide and sulphites 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).

This also applies to additives, processing aids and any other substances which are present in the final product.

Allergen labelling for different types of food

There are a number of ways in which allergen information can be provided to your customers. You will need to choose the method which is best for your business and the type of food you serve.

Prepacked foods refer to any food put into packaging before being placed on sale, while non-prepacked food (loose food) is unpackaged food. Different allergen labelling rules apply depending on how the food is provided.

Our technical guidanceprovides a detailed explanation of the labelling requirements for each food type.

(Video) Allergen Guidance for Food Businesses


EU references in FSA guidance documents

The FSA is updating all EU references, to accurately reflect the law now in force, in all new or amended guidance published since the Transition Period ended at the end of 2020. In some circumstance it may not always be practicable for us to have all EU references updated at the point we publish new or amended guidance.

Other than in Northern Ireland, any references to EU Regulations in this guidance should be read as meaning retained EU law. You can access retained EU law via HM Government EU Exit Web Archive. This should be read alongside any EU Exit legislation that was made to ensure retained EU law operates correctly in a UK context. EU Exit legislation is on In Northern Ireland, EU law will continue to apply in respect to the majority of food and feed hygiene and safety law, as listed in the Northern Ireland Protocol, and retained EU law will not apply to Northern Ireland in these circumstances.


Use our allergen and ingredients food labelling tool to find out more about the different requirements for food labelling and what your business needs to do.


Prepacked products refer to any food put into packaging before being placed on sale. Food is prepacked when it:

  • is either fully or partly enclosed by the packaging
  • cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging
  • is ready for sale.

Prepacked food must have an ingredients list present on the packaging. Allergens present in the product must be emphasised each time they appear in the ingredients list.

Prepacked for direct sale

Prepacked for direct sale products are foods that have been packed on the same premises from which they are being sold.

(Video) Allergen Guidance | Food Standards Scotland

Common foods that can fall into this category include sandwiches, salads and pies made and sold from the premises in which they are made.

Prepacked for Direct Sale (PPDS)foods need to have a label with a full ingredients list with allergenic ingredients emphasised within it.

These changes will provide essential information to help people with a food allergy or intolerance make safe food choices.

Non-prepacked (loose) foods

If you provide non-prepacked foods, you must supply allergen information for every item that contains any of the 14 allergens.

  • Non-prepacked (loose) foods include:
  • foods sold loose in retail outlets
  • foods which are not sold prepacked.

Non-prepacked allergen information requirements can apply to loose items sold at a delicatessen counter, a bakery, a butcher’s, as well as meals served in a restaurant, and food from a takeaway.

Free-from, gluten-free and vegan claims

Making free-from claims for foods requires strict controls of ingredients, how they are handled and how they are prepared. A free-from claim is a guarantee that the food is suitable for all with an allergy or intolerance.

For example, if you are handling wheat flour in a kitchen and you cannot remove the risk of cross-contamination through segregation by time and space, you should let the customer know. You should not make any gluten-free or wheat-free claims.

The Food and Drink Federation provides specific information and guidance on free-from and gluten-free claims.

Customers sometimes assume that vegan meals are free-from animal based allergens (egg, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, milk). This is not always the case as low-level cross-contamination from these ingredients can occur during the production process. You need to be clear about this risk in the food you provide.

The Food and Drink Federation provides specific information and guidance on allergen-free and vegan claims.

Allergen information for different types of food businesses

How you provide allergen information to customers will depend on the type of food business. Food business staff can learn more about providing allergen information by completing our free food allergy training and by using our allergen checklist.

(Video) Why do allergens need to be controlled?

Food businesses

You must provide allergen information in writing if you sell or provide food to your customers directly. This could be either:

  • full allergen information on a menu, chalkboard or in an information pack
  • a written notice placed in a clearly visible position explaining how your customers can obtain this information

When allergen information is provided as part of a conversation with a customer, this can be backed up by written information. This would ensure that it is accurate and consistent.

You can display this allergy and intolerance signto tell customers how they can find allergy information, or create your own. A Welsh version of the allergy and intolerance sign is also available.


If you offer food in the form of a buffet, you need to provide allergen information for each food item separately. You should not provide it for the buffet as a whole.

You can provide this information by labelling the allergens contained in individual dishes, or by displaying a sign directing customers to ask staff for allergen information.

This information must be visible, clearly legible and easily accessible to the customer.

Food delivery and takeaway food

If food is sold online or by phone through distance selling, allergen information must be provided at two stages in the order process.

You must provide allergen information:

  • before the purchase of the food is completed - this can be in writing (on a website, catalogue or menu) or orally (by phone)
  • when the food is delivered - this can be in writing (allergen stickers on food or an enclosed copy of a menu) or orally (by phone).

Allergen information should be available to a customer in written form at a point between a customer placing the order and taking delivery of it.

Takeaway meals should be labelled clearly so customers know which dishes are suitable for those with an allergy.

Allergen requirements and best-practice for food businesses

It is important to manage allergens effectively in your food business to ensure food is safe for customers with food allergies.

(Video) Learn about practical allergen management with safefood

This involves including allergen information when menu planning and having good food preparation and hygiene practices in place to avoid cross-contamination in your kitchen.

Detailed guidance on how to manage allergens in the kitchen can be found in our Safer food, better businessinformation packs for caterers.

We provide:

  • free food allergy training on best practice for managing allergens
  • anallergen checklistyou can share with staff
  • anallergy and intolerance signyou can display

Allergen ingredient recording

You need to make sure that you know what is in the food you provide. You can do this by recording allergen ingredient information in a written format. Allergen ingredients information should be:

  • recorded on product specification sheets
  • included on ingredients labels and ingredients should be kept in original or labelled containers
  • included in recipes or explanations of the dishes provided – you need to consider the impact when recipes change
  • up to date.

We have allergen ingredient templates and other training resources which may be useful in allergen planning your menu.

Avoiding allergen cross-contamination

It is important for food businesses to take steps to avoid cross-contamination in food preparation to protect customers with a food allergy.

There are a number of actions you can take to prevent cross-contamination with allergens. These include:

  • cleaning utensils before each usage, especially if they were used to prepare meals containing allergens
  • washing hands thoroughly between preparing dishes with and without certain allergens
  • storing ingredients and prepared foods separately in closed and labelled containers
  • keeping ingredients that contain allergens separate from other ingredients
  • Allergen cross-contamination can also happen through using the same cooking oil. To cook gluten-free chips, you can’t use the same oil which has been previously used for cooking battered fish.

If you can’t avoid cross-contamination in food preparation, you should inform customers that you can’t provide an allergen-free dish.

The Food and Drink Federation provides specific information and guidance on free-from and gluten-free claims.

Enforcement and penalties

Apart from the possibility of making a customer seriously ill, you could also face the risk of financial and reputational damage to your food business if you fail to comply with allergen information requirements.
Local authorities enforce allergen information regulations. Failure to comply can result in action from the local authority.

If you fail to act on advice given by the local authority, an improvement notice may be issued. If you do not meet the requirements of this notice, you will be issued with a penalty.

(Video) Managing Food Allergies for Home Food Business


We have more detailed information on precautionary allergen labelling in ourprecautionary allergen labelling guide.


How do you write a food allergy disclaimer? ›

The name of the food source of a major allergen must appear: In parentheses following the name of the ingredient. Immediately after or next to the list of ingredients in a "contains" statement. Example: "Contains Wheat, Milk, and Soy."

What measures must be taken by food businesses to inform the consumer about allergens in products? ›

You must provide allergen information in writing if you sell or provide food to your customers directly. This could be either: full allergen information on a menu, chalkboard or in an information pack. a written notice placed in a clearly visible position explaining how your customers can obtain this information.

Do food companies have to list allergens? ›

Food Labels and Allergens

The law requires that food labels identify the food source of all major food allergens used to make the food. This requirement is met if the common or usual name of an ingredient already identifies that allergen's food source name (for example, buttermilk).

How can we plan allergen management in the food industry? ›

Ingredients that contain allergens should be stored separately from non-allergen ingredients. Finished products containing that ingredient should also be isolated from other non-allergen products. Formatting production schedules to isolate products containing allergens is a common tactic in allergen management.

What to do if a customer asks about allergens? ›

If a customer asks about allergens you must give them complete and accurate information; this is best achieved using an allergens file. An allergens file contains a breakdown of all the allergens that are present in every food item that you sell.

Are allergen statements required? ›

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) mandates that packaged food items must declare, in plain language, the presence of any major food allergens on the product packaging.

What is the responsibility of a food company in allergen management? ›

Retail and food service operators should store allergen-containing ingredients in a manner to prevent or minimise the potential for allergen cross-contact e.g. store allergen-containing ingredients below those that do not contain allergens.

Do food businesses have a responsibility to ensure customers are provided with the correct allergy information at the point of sale? ›

Food businesses must inform customers if any products they provide contain any of the 14 allergens as an ingredient. There are a number of ways in which allergen information can be provided to you. This can depend on the type of food you buy and the type of food business you order from.

What the law will require for providing information on allergens at a restaurant? ›

Under Natasha's Law all prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) food will be legally required to have clear ingredients and allergen labelling. The new labels must contain: The name of the food. A full list of ingredients.

Do companies have to list all ingredients in food? ›

Food manufacturers are required to list all ingredients in the food on the label. On a product label, the ingredients are listed in order of predominance, with the ingredients used in the greatest amount first, followed in descending order by those in smaller amounts.

Whose responsibility is to declare food allergies at a restaurant? ›

Restaurants are responsible for food allergies in some circumstances. The restaurant has a very high duty of care for its customers. They should be aware of common food allergies and help customers understand the ingredients in their products. However, negligence applies to consumers, too.

How many allergens do you legally? ›

You have a legal obligation to provide information to consumers on the allergens that are in the food that you supply. These are the 14 allergens that you need to find out whether they are in the food that you make.

What is an allergen management plan? ›

Your Allergen Control Plan is your company's written document regarding the storage, handling, processing, packaging, and identification of allergenic foods and ingredients. This is not a one-time effort. Your Allergen Control Plan must be implemented, audited, enforced and updated continually.

What is included in an allergen management program? ›

The allergen management program shall include the hazards associated with allergens and their control incorporated into the food safety plan. 1. The food safety plan must show the hazards (potential problems) associated with storage, movement, and use of allergens in the plant and how those hazards are controlled.

What are the three most important components for the control of allergen contamination? ›

Dedication, separation, scheduling, and sanitation are key components of an allergen control plan in such situations. Of course, dedication of an entire facility or even an entire processing room is only possible in situations where large quantities of a product are manufactured.

What should say you do if a customer asks you if a food contains nuts and you are unsure? ›

If you are unsure of the customer's question, say so. Never guess…a wrong response could lead to a life-threatening allergic reaction. Write the customer's request clearly on the order docket and also talk to the kitchen staff about it.

When taking the order of customers with food allergies a server should? ›

The server should include the name of the guest with allergies on the order.

How do you handle guests or customers with food restrictions and allergies? ›

Here's how to handle your guests' food allergies and dietary restrictions.
  1. Get the info. ...
  2. Find the right caterer. ...
  3. Show them the menu. ...
  4. Labelling = your BFF. ...
  5. Let them hit the buffet first. ...
  6. Make them their own meals. ...
  7. Think about yourselves! ...
  8. Do dessert.
May 10, 2018

Is it necessary to give food allergen information in writing? ›

Providing allergen information – it's the law

Consumers have a legal right to receive written or verbal information on allergen content if they ask for it when buying food. This is a requirement of the Food Act 2001 and the Food Standards Code.

When must allergen information be provided for food being sold? ›

All food distance sellers should have clear food allergen labelling both before the point of sale and on delivery of the product.

Which allergen must be declared? ›

This law identified eight foods as major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. The FASTER Act, among other things, adds sesame to the list of major food allergens effective January 1, 2023, which will make it the ninth major food allergen recognized in the U.S.

What are the primary responsibilities of food business operators? ›

Food Business Operators (FBOs) play the most critical role as they supply 'Food' to the consumers. Their primary responsibility is to ensure that Food being supplied is SAFE and NUTRITIOUS for human consumption as the food which is “not safe is not food “.

Who has overall responsibility for food safety in a food business? ›

On the surface, the answer is rather simple: the owner or operator of a food business is responsible for food safety.

What are the responsibilities of food business operators? ›

Principal Responsibility of Food Business Operators –FBO's are persons engaged in the food business. FBO's shall ensure that food satisfies the requirements of food law relevant to their activities in the food supply chain and that control systems are in place to prevent, eliminate or reduce risks to consumers.

Is the food industry doing enough to control allergens? ›

The effectiveness of industry allergen control programs As illustrated by the recent spate of recalls, the food industry's response to allergen control has been less than completely successful and more needs to be done. The industry needs better testing regimens and adherence to properly developed cleaning protocols.

What is the main purpose for raising allergen awareness in the food service industry? ›

The purpose of the Act is to minimize risk of illness and death due to accidental ingestion of food allergens by increasing restaurant industry and consumer awareness of regulations and best practices with respect to major food allergens.

Why allergens are a concern in the food industry? ›

Being allergic to any specific food is a health condition, so people with food allergies need to be careful in selection of food for consumption. As the only way to prevent food allergic reactions is to avoid allergens, food industry plays an important role in protection of consumer health.

What is the new allergens law? ›

The rules - known as "Natasha's Law" - require full ingredient and allergen labelling on all food made on premises and pre-packed for direct sale. The change follows the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse from anaphylaxis after she ate sesame in a baguette.

What is the new law for allergies? ›

Natasha's Law is there to protect people with food allergies who rely on the transparency of ingredients and food labelling for prepacked foods and it must have full compliance or lives will continually be put at risk.

Do all restaurant staff have to know the allergic content of every item on the menu? ›

For products which carry a label, this is especially important to ensure labelled products don't mislead the customer by containing an ingredient or allergen that is not listed. Staff should all have an awareness of allergens and there should be a kitchen culture of checking for allergens in the products they use.

Do companies have to disclose all ingredients? ›

Federal and state laws already require ingredient disclosure for food products, over-the-counter drugs, and cosmetics, without disastrous impacts to those industries.

Do small businesses have to list ingredients? ›

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires packaged foods and dietary supplements to bear nutrition labeling unless they qualify for an exemption (A complete description of the requirements).

What are the 5 mandatory requirements in labeling packaged food? ›

Required Packaging Elements and Placement
  • Statement of Identity. ...
  • Net Quantity of Contents. ...
  • Ingredient Statement. ...
  • Allergen Declaration. ...
  • Name and Address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor.
Mar 15, 2022

What are restaurant responsibilities for allergies? ›

What is the restaurant's responsibility for food allergies? A restaurant has a legal responsibility to ensure your safety, provided you've warned staff of your allergy. If you suffer an allergic reaction from the food you are served, you may be able to sue the restaurant for negligence.

What is Natasha's law small business? ›

October 2021 Natasha's Law came into force, requiring all food businesses to provide full ingredients labelling on food that has been pre-packed for direct sale. The legislation is designed to better protect those with allergies and give them greater confidence in the food they buy.

How many allergens must be declared by law when used as ingredients in foods? ›

Customers may have allergies to foods not contained in the EU list. However, it is only a legal requirement to indicate the presence of any of the 14 listed allergens when used as an ingredient in your food.

How do you write an allergy disclaimer? ›

Allergens: Attention customers with food allergies. Please be aware that our food may contain or come into contact with common allergens, such as dairy, eggs, wheat, soybeans, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish or wheat.

What are the 2 major components of an allergen control plan? ›

The main objective of an allergen control plan (ACP) in a food production environment is to: Prevent cross-contact between allergens and non-allergenic food runs. Ensure label accuracy. Ensure adequate documentation.

What are the five steps in an allergen action plan? ›

The Five Steps in the Allergen Action Plan
  • Mild to Moderate Allergic Reaction.
  • Anaphylaxis Reaction.
  • What is a food allergen?
  • What is allergen management?
  • Who should receive training in allergen awareness?
Mar 29, 2022

What is the importance of allergen management? ›

The objective of allergen controls is to prevent and mitigate the risk of allergen cross-contact or contamination, and the risk of the presence of undeclared allergens in a final product.

What are the 4 main contamination sources? ›

There are four main types of contamination: chemical, microbial, physical, and allergenic.

What control measures can be taken for food businesses to prevent allergens? ›

These include:
  • cleaning utensils before each usage, especially if they were used to prepare meals containing allergens.
  • washing hands thoroughly between preparing dishes with and without certain allergens.
  • storing ingredients and prepared foods separately in closed and labelled containers.

What is an example of a disclaimer in food? ›

Not all ingredients are listed. Please alert your server if you have any food allergies. Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical condition.

How do you write an allergen label? ›

Allergenic ingredients must be emphasised in some way every time they appear in the ingredients list. For example, you can list them in bold, contrasting colours or by underlining them.
Examples of ingredients that need to be clearly referenced to the allergen are:
  1. tofu (soya)
  2. tahini paste (sesame)
  3. whey (milk)
Dec 14, 2017

What is an appropriate way to explain a food allergy? ›

First, explain that certain foods can make them very sick. Use simple terms such as “safe food” and “unsafe food.” Next, teach them the names of unsafe foods and what they commonly look like. Point out gallons of milk, cartons of eggs or bags of peanuts in the grocery store.

How do you ask for food allergies on an invitation? ›

Asking something in the lines of this is perfectly fine: "Are there any dietary restrictions I should be aware of?" "Please let me know by [day X] if there are any dietary restrictions, so I can prepare accordingly."

What are the three most misleading phrases used on food labeling? ›

5 Misleading Nutrition Labels
  • Label says “Made with Whole Grains” Implies: 100% of grains used are whole. ...
  • Label says “Multi-Grain” Implies: More healthful with whole grains. ...
  • Label says “No Cholesterol” ...
  • Label says “Natural” ...
  • Label: Sugary junk food does not list sugar as the first ingredient.

Do you have to disclose all ingredients in food? ›

All the ingredients which make up a compound ingredient must be declared in the ingredient list, except when the compound ingredient is used in amounts of less than 5% of the final food.

How do you answer food restrictions? ›

If your host asks you for dietary information, don't be vague under pretense of “being polite.” Keep things simple, straightforward, and specific. Again, it's a good idea to take some food with you and to look up restaurants and grocery stores that can cater to your diet.

What is a food allergen that must be declared? ›

The only foods that have to be declared are those the FDA considers major food allergens: milk, wheat, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustacean shellfish, and soy, or ingredients that contain proteins from these foods.

How many allergens must be listed on a food label? ›

FALCPA requires that foods are labeled to identify the eight major food allergens. The eight major allergens are: milk, egg, fish, crustacean shell fish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans. These 8 major food allergens identified by FALCPA account for over 90 percent of all documented food allergies in the U.S.

How would you handle a customer with a food allergy? ›

What should I do if a customer has an allergic reaction? Put the customer in a comfortable position and call 999, if they're experiencing a severe reaction, state that the individual is having an anaphylaxis allergic reaction. Keep the customer where they are, do not move them.

How do you explain allergens? ›

Allergy occurs when a person reacts to substances in the environment that are harmless to most people. These substances are known as allergens and are found in dust mites, pets, pollen, insects, ticks, moulds, foods and some medications. Atopy is the genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases.

What is the difference between a food allergy and a food? ›

A food sensitivity will not cause anaphylaxis, no matter how much of the offending food is consumed. Conversely, a food allergy triggers an immune system reaction, releasing antibodies (IgE) and causing the body to react as if to a threat — even small amounts may trigger serious or life-threatening reactions.

How do you politely ask for dietary restrictions? ›

Thank the host/hostess for the invitation and give him/her the heads up about your allergies. At the very latest, you should let the host/hostess know about your dietary restrictions when you RSVP by the deadline. This gives them ample time to plan for your meal needs. Be specific in your explanation.

How do you handle guest needs with restrictions on allergies? ›

Here's how to handle your guests' food allergies and dietary restrictions.
  1. Get the info. ...
  2. Find the right caterer. ...
  3. Show them the menu. ...
  4. Labelling = your BFF. ...
  5. Let them hit the buffet first. ...
  6. Make them their own meals. ...
  7. Think about yourselves! ...
  8. Do dessert.
May 10, 2018

How do you offer allergens? ›

Mix a small amount of the new food in with your baby's usual food. If your baby doesn't have a reaction, you can gradually increase the amount next time. You can try a new allergy food each day — but remember to keep giving your baby the food once you have introduced it to their regular diet.


1. Allergen training video - English
(Chartered Trading Standards Institute)
2. FSA explains: New allergen labelling laws
3. Allergens and Menucal Webinar
4. Welcome, Meningococcal Vaccines & Polio vaccines
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))
5. Safe Food Matters!: Allergen Awareness
(International Dairy Deli Bakery Association)
6. Reflections on food safety for those with food allergies
(Royal Society for Public Health)
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