Responsible allergen labelling can save lives

Published on 18 November 2020

A chef looking at a deep fryer, wearing a face mask.

Yarra Ranges Council is reminding businesses to be responsible when it comes to handling and labelling allergens, following the conviction of a local food business in August.

Council began investigation into a food premises in Upwey, following an anaphylactic complaint in 2019 involving hospitalisation.

Our investigation found numerous concerns relating to allergy-related management at the business. After multiple attempts at providing information and resources to the business to help address the matter, Council escalated the issue to prosecution.

The Magistrates Court found the business guilty with conviction in August, 2020.

Director of Communities, Jane Price, said that businesses needed to be extremely careful with allergens and food.

“Correctly labelling allergens and avoiding cross-contamination is one of the most important parts of running a safe food business,” she said.

For many people with anaphylaxis and severe allergies, being served food incorrectly can have severe, sometimes deadly, consequences.

Under the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code, there is a list of foods or substances which require mandatory declaration on the label of packaged foods for sale in Australia.

For unpackaged food, such as meals in cafes or restaurants, allergen advisory statements and declarations must be stated in labelling in connection with the food, for example, written against the menu item, or provided to customers on request.

The Code also states that food businesses must take reasonable measures to ensure they do not compromise the safety or suitability of food.

Reasonable measures may include alerting customers of the potential food allergen or keeping preparation areas and equipment separate and clean to ensure cross contamination does not occur.

“Our Environmental Health Officers work with food businesses across the Yarra Ranges, providing advice on safe and hygienic food practices, continuing during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ms Price said.

“While Council has the option of enforcement action – which ranges from an official warning to court proceedings - education is always our first priority, to help build strong relationships with local businesses and help them navigate their responsibilities when handling food.

“We encourage any business looking for advice to contact their Environmental Health Officer or our Public and Environmental Health Team on 1300 368 333.”

Find out more about allergen handling from the Victorian Government’s Health website

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