FSAI launches allergen tool for food businesses

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Dr Pamela Byrne, chief executive, Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Picture Colm Mahady / Fennells.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Dr Pamela Byrne, chief executive, Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Picture Colm Mahady / Fennells.

A new, online and mobile compatible tool has been developed by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to assist Ireland’s 22,000 food service businesses identify and manage allergens in the food they serve. 

The easy-to-use tool, launched this week by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, will help food businesses comply with their legal requirements to display allergen information on food so that consumers can make more informed choices about the food they purchase. 

The tool is an additional application as part of the FSAI’s MenuCal calorie calculator, which is available free of charge. MenuCal enables food service businesses to calculate calorie values in the food they serve to customers. The legal requirement to display allergen information applies to all food businesses, including restaurants, pubs, takeaways, contract caterers, and food stalls, as well as businesses offering delivery services. Retail outlets such as shops and supermarkets selling prepacked food are also required to display allergen declarations for non-prepacked products. 

Written food allergen information must be easily located and accessible to the consumer and clearly identify the food allergen associated with individual food items. The 14 categories of allergens covered include gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, celery, eggs, fish, and shellfish. 

Minister Varadkar said: “Many people with allergies have to be extra careful when they eat out. Last year I made it compulsory for food businesses to label allergens on non-prepacked food products. This new MenuCal facility is a really useful online tool that reminds businesses about allergens when they are calculating the calorie content of their menus. Well done to the FSAI for designing MenuCal and I am delighted that other countries are now looking to adopt it. I hope it makes life easier and safer for both customers and food providers.” 

According to Dr Pamela Byrne, chief executive of the FSAI, the allergen tool is an important additional resource for chefs and managers, helping food businesses more easily comply with their legal obligation to inform consumers of allergens in food. 

The tool streamlines the management of allergen information by enabling chefs to electronically store allergen information for all the ingredients they use in their own secure account. This means when ingredients change, food businesses simply update the information in MenuCal and every recipe that uses the ingredients will update automatically. 

“Most people take for granted that they can enjoy food without undue risk," Dr Byrne said. "However a significant number of people need to be ever cautious and avoid certain food allergens, which can cause severe and possibly life-threatening reactions. Clear and accurate labelling of allergens is therefore essential as even trace amounts can have serious consequences for those affected. This is where the FSAI’s allergen tool will be of significant assistance to food businesses by helping them meet their obligations."

For more information, including a leaflet and FAQs, see www.fsai.ie.

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