The Allergy New Zealand 2018 Food Allergen Labelling Guide is available here.
Information for people with food allergies
People with food allergies must avoid the food they are allergic to, to prevent having a reaction. Even a trace amount, if eaten, can cause a reaction.
They therefore rely on food businesses (food manufacturers and food services) to give them accurate information on whether a food for sale has their food allergen in it or not.
There are regulations* in New Zealand which require food businesses to provide information about food allergens to consumers, either on labels or on request. Food businesses must also have good food-allergen management procedures so they can ensure their information is accurate. However, they do not have to provide allergen-free food, and it is up to the consumer to make the decision, based on the information provided, whether a food is safe for them or not.
*Current regulations that apply are under the 2014 Food Act and the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Food Code. These are administered in New Zealand by the Ministry of Primary Industries/Food Safety (link to https://mpi.govt.nz/nzfoodsafety/).
Food allergens that must be declared:
There are 10 food allergens which must be declared if they are intentionally in a food for sale as an ingredient, processing aid, or an additive (or a compound of any of these). The foods are listed in the Food Code Standard 1.2.3 clause 4 as:
- Cereals containing gluten, i.e. wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt and their hybridised strains
- Crustacea (e.g. crab, crayfish, prawns and shrimps)
- Egg and egg products
- Fish and fish products (including shellfish)
- Lupin (added in 2018)
- Milk and milk products
- Peanuts and peanut products
- Sesame seeds and sesame seed products
- Soybeans and soybean products
- Tree nuts and tree-nut products other than coconut from the palm Cocos nucifera.
Undeclared allergens and making a complaint
If you are concerned a food product has an undeclared allergen in it, or the label or information provided is misleading in some way, you can make a complaint to the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI). Call MPI’s consumer food safety line on 0800 00 83 33 or email email@example.com
You can also contact Allergy New Zealand if you need any advice about allergen labelling and making complaints – call 0800 34 0800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
MPI may issue a food recall if a complaint is upheld. You can subscribe to MPI’s email alerts for all food recalls by going to http://www.mpi.govt.nz/news-and-resources/subscribe-to-mpi/
For further information on allergen labelling, may contain statements, and foods to avoid, see Allergy New Zealand’s Food Allergen Labelling Guide.
Hospitality training video
27 July, 2016
Aimed at front-of-house staff, this video describes steps to take in serving a customer with food allergies.
The video was made by Allergy New Zealand on behalf of the Allergen Collaboration, a coalition of some 25 New Zealand and Australian organisations, established in 2011. The Allergen Collaboration is chaired by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and includes representatives from regulators, food industry and food service organisations. The Collaboration has also established a portal with resources available for industry and consumers to use, available here.
The Collaboration identified the need for training in the hospitality sector to protect food allergy sufferers and food establishments from the avoidable medical, legal and financial consequences of an allergic reaction. Allergy New Zealand was appointed to produce the video on their behalf.
The video is also designed to provide food service providers, such as cafes and restaurants, with confidence in serving customers with allergies who often feel alienated from dining in public due to discrimination, or fear of an allergic reaction.
The video also aims to let food allergy sufferers know advice is available, so they can feel better supported when dining out. It sets out the responsibilities of both the allergy sufferer and the food service supplier including what to do in the case of an allergic reaction.
Under Australian and New Zealand law, food service suppliers must display information about food allergens in connection with the display of the food or provide this information to the customer on request. This is so that customers can make informed choices when ordering and buying food in their establishment. In New Zealand, the newly passed 2014 Food Act requires food service providers to implement a food allergen plan, to provide customers with accurate information on allergen content.
This video demonstrates a process that can be followed, to ensure people with food allergies are well informed about the venue and its approach to allergies.
A few tips for restaurants and cafes
- Take food allergies seriously – even tiny traces of the food can cause a severe allergic reaction
- If a dish contains an allergen – reflect this on the menu, e.g. chicken stir fry = chicken and cashew stir fry.
- Consider a sign on the wall or a note on menus asking food-allergic guests to inform the manager of their allergies.
Tips for front of house and wait staff
- Listen carefully to your customer – write down the foods he/she is allergic to
- Inform the head chef and other kitchen staff of the foods that your customer is allergic to
- Provide accurate ingredient information to your guest – if you are not sure whether a food contains the allergenic food or ingredient information is not available, do not guess. Say you are not sure and refer the question to the head chef on duty.
- Wash and dry your hands carefully before serving the allergic customer’s food.
- Signs of an allergic reaction include hives; rashes; swelling of face, lips, eyes, tongue; difficulty breathing, cough, wheeze, hoarseness; vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps; fainting, collapse and shock.
- Call 111 and state your customer may have anaphylaxis (anna-fill-axis). Stay with the customer until help arrives.
Tips for the chef
- Talk to your customer about menu alternatives
- Ensure you have complete ingredient information from your suppliers
- Ensure raw ingredients are stored carefully to prevent cross contamination. Do not share serving utensils.
- Check labels of all ingredients in a dish. Know common terms for allergens, such as ‘whey’ or ‘casein’ for milk, ‘albumin’ for egg.
- All equipment and utensils should be cleaned with hot, soapy water before being used to prepare a dish for a food-allergic diner. Be sure to keep the clean equipment separate from equipment being used for other orders.
- Thoroughly wash and dry utensils, cutting boards, containers and grills to avoid cross-contamination between foods.
- Think before adding nuts and seed oils, dressings, sauces and garnishes
- Avoid cooking with fats or oils that have been used to cook other foods
- Keep the safe meal separate to other dishes before it is served to the customer.
Page last reviewed July 2018
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