Menu labeling continues to lay dormant at the White House, but changes across Europe may be indicative of America’s future.
Starting Dec. 13, every restaurant, hotel, pub, service station and caterer in the European Union will have to track and post menu items that contain any of their declared allergens. Schools, hospitals and prisons also will have to post items that contain any of the country’s 14 main allergen ingredients.
Under the new rule, allergens will be emphasized on food labels with food service providers given the responsibility of determining how they showcase the 14 ingredients on their menus. This includes highlighting the item in bold or underlined for emphasis. And according to the website, this means disclaimers that food items “contains x” no longer applies.
This change in the regulation means information about allergenic ingredients in restaurants and other establishments that serve food will be located in a single place, i.e. the ingredient list. It also is important to note that the new rules only cover information about the major allergens used intentionally as ingredients. This means it does not cover allergens present following accidental contact.
The new regulations are an important step to protect the lives and health of diners in the EU, and no doubt it’s a regulation that U.S. lawmakers are watching. For restaurant operators in the U.S., the new regulations could be indicative of what’s to come closer to home. And operators if U.S.-based restaurant brands have locations overseas, they will be required to follow the same standard.
We at MenuTrinfo are developing an infographic that breaks down the top allergens in both the United States and EU, and highlights the number of diners who suffer from allergens both here and across the pond. This has been done in effort to help the food service community better understand allergen impacts on the U.S. and EU populations and will be published within the next few weeks.
The new regulation makes it clear that the European Union is taking a bold step to streamline the allergen guidelines that every establishment that serves food must adhere to. The focus on establishments that serve food items — whether pre-packaged, sold loose or served in restaurants — will become more prevalent as the number of people born with allergens continues to increase.
I have long discussed the importance of food allergen best practices and while the EU is taking this issue seriously, it is expected to be a costly undertaking. Another challenge is the impact of the ruling on restaurants that frequently change menu items, pop-up vendors and event caterers, and establishments with high turnover, according to the British Hospitality Association (BHA).
The BHA estimates that the cost to foodservice operators will be €200M ($258M U.S.) a year based on new sourcing and management processes, menu adaptations and employee training. Small business owners are anticipated to struggle the most; however, Jackie Grech, policy director of BHA, has said the goal is to make it easier for people to get information about which allergens are present in the food they eat away from home.
It all goes back to the message we’ve been promoting for years: making menus matter. This philosophy rings true no matter where people live or establish their business. After all, we think the lives and health of your customers are worth it.