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Great British Menu judge Prue Leith hits out at regulation costing restaurants £200m a year

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The EU allergens regulation entered into force last December and obliges caterers and restaurant owners to conduct a comprehensive audit of every ingredient present within dishes, which must then be displayed on menus and packaging. Each must display information on the 14 allergens or face fines of up to £5,000 for any infraction of the rules.

These allergens are: eggs, molluscs, crustaceans, celery, milk, fish, treenuts, sulphites, soya, sesame, peanuts, mustard, lupin and gluten.

Thomasina Miers, co-founder of Wahaca restaurants, said: “It is a total fiasco and in my view is the responsibility of the allergee to ask, not the restaurateurs to list. I had a severe allergy for six years so I’m coming at it from both sides of the fence.”

It was also suggested that these allergens only affect two per cent of the UK population.

Leading chefs and restaurateurs have hit out at disproportionate EU regulations that are a “bureaucratic nightmare” and are “reducing spontaneity, creativity and innovation” in catering, according to signatories of a recently published letter. The list of signatories ranges from household names to small, family-run restaurants.

Read more about the restaurant industry:

The coalition of over 100 restaurateurs, hoteliers and catering professionals supporting the letter includes Great British Menu judge Prue Leith, former chairman of the Restaurant Association Richard Bradford, Corbin & King director Jeremy King, Hix Restaurants founder Mark Hix, Wahaca’s Miers and Patisserie Valerie chairman Luke Johnson.

Prue Leith said: “These new rules on the labelling of allergens are a bureaucratic nightmare that will inflict significant damage on the catering industry, particularly on smaller business – which must be assessed before any more damage is done.”

In the letter, it was suggested that “restaurants will have to spend significant sums of money entirely re-writing their menus, as well as either re-training or hiring additional staff. 

“Despite the substantial cost of compliance for business airing from this regulation (estimated at £200m by experts), there is little evidence that this new regime will improve the previous system in place to protect the health of allergy sufferers.

“As employers responsible for thousands of jobs across the sector, Business for Britain and the signatories to the attached letter want to mitigate the harm these new rules are imposing on business.”

This is a costly overreaction from Brussels using a regulatory sledgehammer to crack a nut, said Business for Britain CEO Matthew Elliott.

“Diners with allergies can and should be able to eat out with allergies, but this has unfairly placed too great a burden on the catering industry which will hurt customers, and in particular small independent businesses. These rules have come straight from the EU with little debate or warning at home. They are unaccountable to diners and businesses across the UK.”

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