Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Employers not responsible for food allergy information

Shropshire employers have been reassured the onus is not on them when it comes to providing allergen information on food in the workplace.

Graham Davies, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford and Shrewsbury, said there had been several high-profile cases in the media lately where major firms had been criticised for their approach to food labelling.

“Pret a Manger hit the headlines after two customers died after consuming food that contained ingredients that they were severely allergic to – and a coroner said that even though the company was within the law, allergens were not labelled adequately or clearly.”

Mr Davies said employers who were concerned about how the rules affect food available in the workplace though should not be worried.

“When food is pre-packaged, labelling for all ingredients – including any allergens – must be on the packaging. But food not packaged and prepared on the premises, such as items in food catering businesses and sandwich shops, does not need to be individually labelled – even if it contains a major allergen. The supplier though must have clear signposting and information available so it can be shown to the customer.”

Mr Davies said the law required the food business operator to be responsible for providing allergen information – the business producing, processing or distributing the food.

“So if you have a staff canteen, the onus will be on the catering company to provide the information, and not on you. But of course, as a responsible employer, it would be sensible to check whether the information they’re providing is clear, and whether the catering team is sufficiently knowledgeable. If you have employees with allergies, you could also ask their opinion too.

“And when it comes to something as innocuous as packaged biscuits in a meeting, you’d be wise to leave the biscuits in their packets so staff can check the information themselves.”

Mr Davies said first aiders in the workplace should be advised if any staff had food allergies, but there was no legal requirement to train them to help with EpiPen injections which need to be administered if a reaction occurs.