From December 13th, 2014 the Work Health and Safety Regulation 11691-2011 went into effect on consumer information, regarding allergens contained in food. The Regulation applies to caffes, canteens, restaurants, hotels, shops and all institutions offering pre-packaged or processed products. They are required to provide a system that would inform its customers about potential allergens in food and finished products, and the maximum penalty for non-compliance with this regulation is 100,000 HRK.
Declaration on allergens is extremely important for people suffering from intolerance or allergies because it can severely impact their health, and in some cases even cause death. There is an increasing number of people allergic to certain foods, and the amount of foods containing allergens also increases. It is, therefore, important to know what we eat. In some, albeit rare cases, even a contact with certain food can cause a reaction. The reactions can cause various symptoms such as rash, itching, nausea, pain, and in more serious situations, a shortness of breath, convulsions throat, swelling. From the viewpoint of health care and consumers, the declaration of allergens is a very positive step in order to avoid reactions to allergens, although it could cause headaches for restaurateurs.
”Regulation causes confusion and resentment by many caterers because of all the new laws, rules and bylaws their jobs are becoming more and more administrative and less creative, which most strive. ” (Zadarski list, 10.02.2015.)
Although the list of possible allergens is quite large, it is only necessary to point out the food that contains any of the following 14 elements:
- cereals containing gluten
- eggs and egg-based products
- fish and fish products
- milk and milk products
- nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashew and Brazil nuts, pistachios …
- molluscs and shellfish
The list is not definite. The European Union can change or expand it, depending on the development of society, the needs of consumers and the food industry. Therefore, this Regulation should be constantly updated.
It is recommended, though not required, that the dishes that may contain only traces of allergens, should also be marked because we could never be sure what amount of allergens they contain. Even for restaurants that have opted solely for food that does not contain allergens, it is recommended that they put a note that the restaurant does not guarantee that some food does not contain traces of allergens.
Menu adjustments should be made based on analysis of all ingredients used, so it can be compared with the list of foods containing allergens. That way, the basic hygiene standards are met and cross contamination is avoided.
It is not directly specified how information about allergens should be conveyed, so it is left on the discretion of caterers. But according to the Regulation, the information should be made available in written, oral or electronic form. In any case, the information should be clear and accessible. One can make a list of dishes that include certain allergens. There can also be a sign that refers to a particular allergen in the dishes on the menu. One of new methods used today is to read QR codes of the menu, which does not change the design of the menu, but the guests are offered the necessary information about potential allergens. If caterers use digital menus, which are becoming increasingly popular and offer the option of adding an allergen with the dishes served, the update would be much easier because it requires only a mouse click to add or remove the allergen, and also offers adding new ones, depending on the needs and requirements of caterers. In any case, it is recommended that the information is given in written or digital form as it is difficult to prove that verbal information were properly given.