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Legal Situation

Under section 14 of the Food Safety Act 1990 businesses must not ‘sell to the purchaser’s prejudice any food which is not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by the purchaser’. This means, for example, that if someone specifically asks for a meal that doesn’t contain a certain food and you give them a meal that does contain it, then you could be prosecuted.

The General Food Law Regulation 178/2002, prohibits ‘unsafe’ food being placed on the market. When deciding whether a food is ‘unsafe’, the information a business provides to its customers, including on food labels, in menu descriptions, and the information provided by serving staff, are taken into account.

For a person with a food allergy, dishes containing the food they react to are ‘unsafe’, even though they are safe for most other people. So that means businesses will need to make sure that, when asked, they give people with food allergies the information they need about whether the food they react to is in a particular dish.

If you are serving dishes that you say don’t contain a certain food, you must have procedures in place to make sure this is true. So it’s a good idea to have a written procedure for what staff should do when someone asks for a meal that doesn’t contain a certain food and you could include food allergy risks as part of your food safety management system.

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