Module 6 – Introduction
Communicating with customers
It is important that customers with food allergies or intolerances are able to make informed choices when choosing products. All staff serving customers should be made aware of the potential risks to customers' health if they advise them incorrectly.
A process must be in place to ensure that allergen information can be easily obtained and is accurate and consistent. Let your customers know that you would be happy to discuss their requirements with them. For example, highlighting on the menu or chalkboard that customers should ask staff for further information if they have any concerns about allergens.
Where possible, design your menu to ensure names and descriptions of dishes reflect potential allergenic ingredients, for example, 'strawberry mousse with almond shortbread' or 'satay sauce made with peanuts' or marinades e.g chicken marinated in buttermilk.
- Time of booking: ask if any members of the party have any allergies – if yes take a note of this and ensure that upon arrival all staff members are reminded.
- Taking orders: ask if any members of the party have any allergies. If you are asked any queries do not guess the answer but talk so someone who does know the answer such as a manager or chef to find out allergenic ingredients.
- Delivery to table: ensure that the allergen free dish is taken to the table separately and make sure you wash your hands if you have handled other plates or foods.
- Staff communication: tell all staff when a customer has an allergy, this includes any change of shift staff. If you are asked any queries do not guess the answer but talk to someone who does know the answer such as a manager or chef to find out allergenic ingredients.
- Buffets: where customers can help themselves and there is no opportunity for discussion with staff – each of the foods in the buffet should be labelled to show any allergenic ingredients.
Let your customers with allergies know that you are allergy-aware and give advice on which foods to avoid. Always reflect the presence of allergens on your signs or tickets.
What to do in the event of an emergency
Call the emergency services (999) immediately if you suspect a customer is having an allergic reaction. Send someone to meet the ambulance crew and remain with the customer in the meantime.
For more information please visit NHSInform.scot.
- Never guess ingredients in a food – always check!
- This information may be subject to change and you may wish to check with an Enforcement officer or Food Standards Scotland
Allergen labelling for different types of food
There are a number of ways in which allergen information can be provided to customers. You will need to choose the method which is best for your business and the type of food you serve, different allergen labelling rules apply depending on how the food is provided.
Our labelling decision tool will help you to identify the type of food your business provides and the allergen labelling requirements.
Prepacked products refer to any food put into packaging before being placed on sale. Prepacked food must have an ingredients list present on the packaging. Allergens present in the product must be emphasised each time they appear in the ingredients list. (See module 4 for more information.)
Non-prepacked (loose) foods
If you provide non-prepacked foods, you must supply allergen information for every item that contains any of the 14 allergens. The allergen information can be provided by any means that you choose, including orally.
Prepacked for direct sale
Prepacked for direct sale products are foods that have been packed on the same premises from which they are being sold. Currently, allergen information can be provided in the same way as for non-prepacked (loose) foods. From October 2021, the way food businesses must provide allergen labelling information for Prepacked for Direct Sale (PPDS) will change. Foods will need to have a label with the name of the food and a full ingredients list with allergenic ingredients emphasised within it.
Requirement for non-prepacked (loose) food
Allergen information for non-prepacked food can be provided in a variety of means to suit the business.
All mandatory allergen information on menus or signpost statements to where it could be found must be easily accessible and visible, and clearly legible to the final consumer regardless of whether they have a food allergy or not.
Where a food business chooses for this information to not be provided upfront in a written format (for example allergen information on the menu), the food business must use clear signposting to direct the customer to where this information can be found such as asking members of staff. In such situations there must be a statement that can be found on food menus, chalkboards, food order tickets, food labels.
Where possible, design your menu to ensure names and descriptions of dishes reflect potential allergenic ingredients, for example, 'strawberry mousse with almond shortbread' or 'satay sauce made with peanuts'.
Requirement for food prepacked for direct sale
Food prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) must have on the package or on a label attached to the package:
- the name of the food, and
- the ingredients list with the 14 allergens required to be declared by law emphasised within it.
These need to be in line with the legal requirements that apply to naming the food and listing ingredients. Read our guidance on the rules regarding the content, form and presentation of the name, ingredients and allergen information.
PPDS food includes:
- Sandwiches placed into packaging by the food business and sold from the same premises.
- A café giving away packaged samples of a new range of cakes they have made on the same premises.
- Foods packaged and then taken by the same operator to their market stall to sell.
- A butcher who makes burgers or sausages which are prepacked to be sold on the same premises.
- Foods packed by a food business to be sold in its retail units located within the same building complex as the premises where the food was packed such as a train station, hospital, university or holiday park.
- In a retail environment such as a supermarket, the following examples would also be considered to be prepacked for direct sale food, provided they are packed on the premises from which they are being sold before they are offered for sale:
- Fresh pizzas from the deli counter e.g. on a cardboard tray and wrapped in plastic,
- Boxed salads,
- Hot foods such as rotisserie chicken, and
- Foods that are pre-weighed and packed such as cheese or meats from a delicatessen counter or baked goods from an in-store bakery.
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