More than 100 restaurateurs, hoteliers and catering professionals have signed an open letter protesting at the “bureaucratic nightmare” of new EU regulations on allergens. The regulations – which became mandatory in December 2014 – require businesses to identify, record and clearly communicate the presence of any of 14 allergens in a dish or drink, aiming to provide the public with better information about what they are eating and drinking. Businesses face fines of £5,000 for any infraction of the rules.
They say “experts” have confirmed this is costing the industry an estimated £200m a year and is reducing chefs’ “spontaneity, creativity and innovation” in a letter to the Mail on Sunday, published last weekend. Signatories to the letter, organised by campaign group Business For Britain, included Great British Menu judge Prue Leith, Albert Roux OBE, Richard Bradford (former chairman of the Restaurant Association), Mark Hix (founder, Hix Restaurants), Thomasina Miers (co-founder, Wahaca) and Luke Johnson (chairman, Patisserie Valerie).
Chemex Expert Comment:
Rare though it is for Europe, this legislation is reasonably well thought out – and we were talking to customers about it a year ago so they could prepare. You can read our guidance here. Knowing what you’ve put in a dish and making sure your staff are aware isn’t the most onerous of tasks in a well-run kitchen and serving staff can always ask if they’re not sure. Also this may well increase business; allergies are serious so if people likely to suffer anaphylactic shock from exposure to a particular allergen know they can eat safely in an establishment they most likely will.
And appealing to Jeremy Hunt? You never know, he may ignore the wider public health argument that allergen labelling is a good thing. After all, this is a health secretary who believes in wasting public funds on homeopathy – something already dismissed by experts as ‘witchcraft’ (and with good reason) – so what’s next? A transport secretary that believes in broomsticks?