Peanut prosecution highlights the importance of allergen awareness

According to the European Food Information Council, approximately 2% of the adult population suffer from food allergies and 3-7% of children. The great need to protect this vulnerable group led to the Food Information Regulations introducing a new law in December 2014 stating that correct allergen information must be shared with the customer.

Nearly 18 months after the law has come into effect, the first sentencing has taken place after false allergen information and handling had drastic results. Teesside Crown Court found restauranteur Mohammed Zaman guilty of manslaughter after a customer, who ordered a peanut free meal, suffered a fatal anaphylactic shock. Paul Wilson, 38, specified when placing his order that his meal must be nut-free. This information was found recorded on the order slip at the restaurant and also written on the lid of the meal at Mr Wilson’s flat, yet the curry was to have catastrophic effects. There have been instances where poor communication regarding allergens or a lack of staff training may have led to the legislation not being met. Tragically in this case, in a bid to cut costs the restaurant owner had swapped his key ingredient almond power for a ground nut mix containing peanuts. The only cause of this allergen crime here can be seen as false advertising, and failing to notify customers and staff of the change.

This case sees the start of a crackdown in the enforcement of the allergen law and even though the responsibility in reality lies with everyone within a business – food handler to Head Chef – it is the owner who will be held accountable within the eyes of the law.

Protect your customers, and protect yourself, by implementing a few vital procedures.

A useful source from the Food Standards Agency ‘Allergen information for loose foods’ suggests the following:

• Keep staff trained and informed
Informed and well-trained staff are the foundations of any well run premises. Staff should have received training on this back in 2014 and any menu changes should be communicated to all before they are offered to the public.

• Written allergen information
Including allergen information on menus, menu boards and/or on websites is the easiest way of highlighting allergens for your dishes.

• Signposting allergen information
Where this is not available to customers upfront in writing, you should clearly signpost where this can be found.

• Allergen menu folders
You might like to create more detailed allergen menu folders that contain product specifications, ingredients labels and recipes of charts of the dishes served.

• Telling a customer about allergens
It is so easy to include this in conversation with customers, alongside the methods above. This can also add to great service, so why not?

• Effective communication
In addition to staff sharing with customers, you should regularly be communicating with your staff about any changes or updates to allergen information.

• Gluten-free and no gluten containing ingredients
Make sure you are clear on the difference between ‘gluten-free’ and ‘no gluten’ when making claims about your food. More guidance can be found at the FSA website.

Here at Shieldyourself we also have a few ways to help you meet these high, but vital standards. We can produce tailored Food Safety Management Systems with specific safe methods, provide advice through our unique Helpline Service and have experienced Environmental Health Practitioners as your dedicated Account Manager. For more information about how we can help keep your business and customers safe, visit our homepage or call us today on 020 3432 1568.

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official food safety, health and safety or fire safety advice. Shieldyourself take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shieldyourself services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email

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Mark Flanagan

Blogs, Food Safety

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