Author: Gabriel Cazado. Mitjans de Comunicació de L’Hospitalet

L'H New

Food | 28/12/2022

Don’t forget to identify the allergens on your menu

The new law on allergen information entered into force on 13 December 2014. This law enabled restaurants to explain, by means of posters and signs, that they could not guarantee the provision of precise information regarding allergens. Although only eight years have passed, the situation is now much more demanding, as customers have become used to receiving much more information. Although the regulations are not especially strict, in practice establishments are now obliged to provide detailed information on allergens, whether written, verbally or digitally. At present, the law obliges establishments to include the word “contains”, followed by the product or substance that could potentially cause an allergic reaction (in other words, any of the 14 allergens specified in the regulations, as detailed below), even if the dish only contains trace amounts.

Identification for each menu

Before providing allergen information, chef Xanty Elías makes a distinction between two different types of menu. This distinction has its origins in the changing nature of the dishes that are on the menu, and involves two different approaches to the provision of allergen information.

“Evolving” menu: the dishes change very quickly, in line with the produce available in the market. This makes it very difficult to specify the allergens that the dishes may contain, and greater effort is therefore required in order to provide this information.

“Static” menu: the dishes change very little, as they constitute classic options or form part of a repetitive rotation. Once the task of organising the allergens into files is complete, all that is left is to update the information on the menu whenever a modification is made.

For dishes on the “static” menu, the ideal option is to use the established symbols accompanied by the colours and logos that identify the allergens. However, for products on the “evolving” menu, allergen information can be provided by the wait staff. This technique can be highly effective, as long as customers are asked if they have any allergies before their orders are taken. The customer can then be offered only those dishes that do not contain the allergen in question. If there is any doubt, the wait staff can seek clarification from the kitchen, although ideally the wait staff will have a very thorough knowledge of the dishes and their allergens in order to create a greater perception of trust.

The 14 allergens that everyone should know

The European regulation that sets the guidelines regarding the ingredients on the menu defines 14 allergens that must be labelled. The aim is to make it easy to identify the allergens that each food product contains.

  1. Cereals containing gluten: wheat (such as spelt and kamut), rye, barley, oats and their hybridised strains and derivative products, provided the concentration exceeds 20 ppm.
  2. Crustaceans and derivative products: prawns and king prawns, crayfish, langoustines, crabs, krill, lobsters, breaded shrimp, spider crabs, crab butter, etc.
  3. Molluscs: mainly bivalves (clams, mussels, scallops, oysters), snails, sea snails, squid, octopus and cuttlefish.
  4. Fish: caviar, roe, gelatine, surimi, kamaboko, anchovies (paste), Worcestershire sauce, spicy (Asian) sauces/condiments, products used in native cuisines.
  5. Eggs: found in food products with the prefix “ovo” (e.g. ovomucin), binding agents for bread and baked goods, glazed sugar, cakes, ladyfingers, pavlova, mayonnaise, sauces, etc. They are also used as binding agents in dishes containing mincemeat or breaded meat, and in surimi.
  6. Lupin: found in lupin flour and can also be found in bread, baked goods and plant-based meat substitutes.
  7. Mustard: cured meats and other meat-based products can contain mustard.
  8. Peanuts: frying oil can contain peanuts, as can plant-based meat substitutes, dressings, pesto, and the products used in native cuisines (e.g. African, Asian and Mexican).
  9. Nuts: nut oil (including hazelnut oil), marzipan, nougat, nut paste, nut butter, baked goods, desserts, amarettini, chocolate, aperitifs and muesli. Nuts can also be found in salads and salad dressings, pesto and other sauces, and in vegetarian dishes.
  10. Soy: condiments (shoyu, tamari, teriyaki, Worcestershire sauce), miso, tempeh, soy sprouts, vegetarian dishes and spreads, surimi, bread and baked goods, hamburgers, and products containing cured meat.
  11. Sesame and products containing sesame: the products most likely to contain sesame are bread, baked goods, crackers and breakfast cereals.
  12. Celery: this is likely to be found in spiced dishes, curries, broths, soups, stews, sauces, meat (including cured meat) products, Waldorf salad, vegetable salads and potato salad with broth.
  13. Milk and dairy products (including lactose): casein, whey protein, lactalbumin, lactoglobulin, lactose, cream, sour cream, fresh cream, whey, yoghurt, kefir, cheese, quark, butter, baked goods, rennet, nougat.
  14. Sulphur dioxide and sulphites: in concentrations exceeding 10 mg/kg or mg/l, these can be found in wine to which sulphur has been added and in instant mashed potato mix, albeit usually at levels lower than the limit for obligatory declaration.

Lastly, although it is not obligatory, we also recommend that you inform customers of the possible presence of traces or cross-contamination involving the dishes on your menu. If there are any doubts, as stated above, you should always check with the kitchen.

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