Top chefs attack EU rules on allergens in food
Chefs including Albert Roux, Mark Hix and Thomasina Miers, the founder of Wahaca, have written to The Telegraph warning that EU allergen rules are harming restaurants across the UK
More than 100 top chefs have attacked EU rules that force restaurants to specify dishes which contain specific allergens, warning that “significant damage” being inflicted on catering industry.
Chefs and restauranteurs including Prue Leith, the Great British Menu judge, Albert Roux, Mark Hix and Thomasina Miers, the founder of Wahaca, have written to The Daily Telegraph warning that the rules, unveiled in Brussels last year, are hurting “spontaneity, creativity and innovation”.
The EU allergens regulations came into force in December and require caterers and restaurant owners to conduct a comprehensive audit of every ingredient present within their dishes, which must then be displayed on menus and packaging.
They must display information on 14 allergens including rare allergies such as mustard seeds and Lupin, or face fines of up to £5,000 for any infraction of the rules.
Other allergens covered by the regulations include celery, sesame seeds and eggs.
The regulations mean that it is no longer be acceptable for cafes and wine bars to state on menus they do not know if allergens are present, or that they “could” be present.
Instead they will have to label any food clearly with a precise breakdown of the allergens they contain. Where it is not obvious from the ingredient the name of the allergen will be stated next to it.
“The letter states: “As chefs, restaurateurs, hoteliers and caterers, we are concerned about the bureaucratic nightmare the recent EU allergen regulations have imposed on our businesses.
“And it is not just the cost. They will reduce the spontaneity, creativity and innovation restaurants and others in the industry have enjoyed up until now.
“We need real change in the EU as the last thing small, independent businesses like restaurants and cafes need is to be hampered with further regulations and an even longer rulebook.”
Miss Miers, who won BBC cookery competition Masterchef in 2005, said: “It is a total fiasco and in my view is the responsibility of the allergee to ask, no the restaurateurs to list. I had a severe allergy for 6 years so coming at it from both sides of the fence.”
And Ms Leith said: “These new rules on the labelling of allergens are a bureaucratic nightmare that will inflict significant damage on the catering industry, particularly on smaller business – which must be assessed before any more damage is done.”
Matthew Elliot, from campaign group Business for Britain, which organised the letter, added: “This is a costly overreaction from Brussels using a regulatory sledgehammer to crack a nut. Diners with allergies can and should be able to eat out with allergies, but this has unfairly placed too great a burden on the catering industry which will hurt customers, and in particular small independent businesses.
“These rules have come straight from the EU with little debate or warning at home. They are unaccountable to diners and businesses across the UK.”
The EU top 14 allergens are: Eggs, molluscs, crustaceans, celery, milk, fish, treenuts, sulphites, soya, sesame, peanuts, mustard, lupin and gluten.