EUROPE – Allergens in public eating places, the memento of the Italian Ministry of Health

The EU regulation 1169/2011, please note, introduced the general duty to inform consumers about allergens. And before the FIR (1) torns into FIRE, public operators have to move. Who, how? The Italian Ministry of Health has explained it well, already last February (2), but unfortunately only few took notice.

Not only public operators but anyone selling or administering food in any context, should inform consumers about the presence – even if any – of allergenic ingredients. Therefore, their legal representatives, or persons delegated to that, responsible for:

• bars and ice cream shops, banquet kiosks and street vendors, hash houses and cafeterias, take-away and kebabs, pizza places, wine bars, taverns, restaurants,

• school, business and hospital cafeterias, catering eating places,

• hotels, pensions, camping sites, hostels, bed & breakfasts (3)

• sports clubs, associations, including charities, railway recreational associations, festivals.

What information, and how. Specific and timely information on the presence of allergenic ingredients (4) therefore extends to all foods sold (pre-packaged, pre-wrapped and unpackaged) as well as those prepared, served or otherwise administered.

college prodotti allergeni

The Ministry has forecasted the assumption that the information is offered at the request of the consumer. This forecast, please note, does not exempt the operator from the obligation to maintain a written log readily available to patrons, where the ingredients and allergens contained in each food on offer are listed. This rather emphasizes the duty of providing appropriate training for those working in contact with customers, like those who work in food preparation.

Registers. The information required must then be recorded in writing, and communicated with various instruments (from menus to monitors or tablets inside the restaurants) provided available to end users and verifiable by the authorities. Taking into account the privacy of sensitive data such as individual vulnerabilities, an open request should not be necessary.

A menu and knife and fork cutlery laid on a restaurant table

The information must be promptly referred to each dish produced, and an accurate indication of any allergenic ingredients in question must be identified, if necessary, through the formula 'it may contain'. Namely 'wheat' and not '(cereals containing) gluten', 'nuts' instead of 'shell dried fruit'. General lists of 14 categories of substances provided for in EU reg. 1169/11 (5) are to be held totally unacceptable, and indeed symptomatic of poor operator attention to their duties of self-checking and risk prevention of unintentional contamination (6).

Sanctions? Many are under the illusion that we can continue to ignore the provisions of the – now no longer new – European rules, in the absence of an appropriate system of sanctions. Not true. The supervisory authorities are in fact entitled to prescribing the adoption of measures of dutiful self-checking – against which, the compiling a register of ingredients is a mere confirmation of proper compliance – on the basis of EC Regulations 178/02 (7) and 852 / 04 (8). Failure to comply with those requirements, that have a definite sanitary relevance, can therefore now too be sanctioned in accordance with Legislative Decree 193/07, Article 6 (9).

(Dario Dongo)


(1) 'Food Information Regulation', EU Regulation 1169/11
(2) Ministerial Health memorandum 6.2.15. Record the linearity of this document with the draft guidelines, in turn, prepared by the European Commission, DG Santé (,
(3) The same words BnB express the service of breakfast, along with accommodation. Nevertheless, there is news of regional measures (e.g. Marche) that inexplicably excluded these businesses from the obligation of registration of these business food operators established in EC reg. 852/04 (so called Hygiene 1). When in Marche, use the interpretation the Marchigiani apply, even in spite of the common law (!)
(4) Please note: the only allergens subject to specific information are those listed in Annex II of EU Reg. 1169/11. It is not required to report on other substances, outside of those above, which also constitute a source of allergies and food intolerances (e.g. Strawberries, kiwi fruit, pineapple, yeast, nickel, monosodium glutamate, nutmeg, etc.)
(5) See the above mentioned note 4
(6) As already written, the risk of contamination by allergens not voluntarily placed in the food should be checked and prevented like any other physical, chemical or microbiological contamination which may affect safety. Only where – despite the diligence carried out by self-checking (Good Hygienic Practices and HACCP) – it should not be possible to exclude the risk of contamination, one must indicate in the appropriate register 'it may contain (…)' followed by the name of the allergen / s
(7) Article 14 of EC Regulation 178/02, so called 'General Food Law', please note, requires that the analysis of the risk of a food is performed considering both its safety for vulnerable groups of consumers (people suffering from allergies and intolerances) and information accompanying the product
(8) So called Regulation 'Hygiene 1', laying down general provisions on hygiene and food safety. According to Article 1 ('General Obligations'), 'The food business operators ensure that all stages of production, processing and distribution of food under their control satisfy the relevant hygiene requirements laid down in this Regulation.'
(9) Legislative Decree 193/07, 'Implementation of Directive 2004/41 / EC relating to controls in food safety and application of Community regulations in the same sector'.