The cost of implementing new EU Food Information Regulations is set to cost the British hospitality industry up to £200m a year, new figures suggest.
By the end of 2014, every food business will have to accurately track, record and communicate to the public which menu items contain any of 14 of the most common foods to cause allergic reactions, such as nuts, shellfish and eggs.
The legislation will apply to everyone from restaurants, hotels and pubs to mobile caterers, schools, hospitals and prisons.
Policy makers hope the rules will provide the public with better information about the foods they are eating.
However, the sheer cost of preparing for the changes will cost the industry hundreds of millions of pounds, according to the British Hospitality Association.
Jackie Grech, policy director for the BHA, said: “The challenge will be greatest for restaurants which frequently change recipe or menu items; pop-up or event caterers; establishments with high staff turnover; and smaller establishments who may struggle with the resources to track, identify and record all allergens used from main dishes through to garnishes and drinks.
“As a result, the British Hospitality Association has calculated that it could cost the industry up to £200m per year to implement new sourcing and management processes, adapt menus and websites and regularly brief and train staff.”
The BHA said it had calculated the £200m based on research that shows eight billion meals are served out-of-home every year. Up to 2% of the population in the UK are food allergen sufferers so up to 160 million requests for information (2% of 8 billion) could be made annually.
If staff spend just five minutes dealing with each request at an all-in cost of £15 an hour, the figure comes to £200m.
Grech said the British Hospitality Association is launching a guidance toolkit to help hotels, restaurants and caterers implement the new regulations and cope with requests for information.
The Food Information for Consumers Regulation is a binding regulation on all EU member states. It comes into force on 13 December 2014.
The 14 allergens that must be labelled or indicated as being present in foods are:
– Cereals containing gluten such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt or khorasan
– Crustaceans, for example prawns, crabs, lobster, crayfish
– Milk (including lactose)
– Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia (or Queensland) nuts
– Celery (including celeriac)
– Sesame seeds
– Sulphur dioxide (more than 10mg/kg or 10mg/L)
– Molluscs for example clams, mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid