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As a food business owner, it is your legal obligation to ensure your staff are aware of food allergies and intolerances, and that your customers can make informed safety choices about the food they buy.

Mandatory labelling of allergens

A food allergen is a food or substance that causes an immediate, and potentially fatal, allergic reaction in a susceptible person.

There are 11 foods or substances that can cause an allergic response in some people. 

The Food Standards Code requires all foods which use these 11 allergens to be labelled. The label must appear on the food packaging or in connection with the display of the food, and identify if the food contains any of the following:

  1. cereals containing gluten and their products – wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt, and their hybrid strains
  2. crustacea and their products
  3. egg and egg products
  4. fish and fish products
  5. milk and milk products
  6. peanuts and peanut products
  7. tree nuts and tree nut products (does not include coconut)
  8. sesame seeds and sesame seed products
  9. soybean and soybean products
  10. added sulfites in concentrations of 10mg/kg or more.
  11. lupin.

It's good customer service to provide information about whether a menu item is halal or vegetarian, but this is not a legal requirement.

Find detailed information about these 11 substances and more information about allergens on the Department of Health Food allergen awareness page.

Keep track of allergens

Step 1: Get a list of ingredients

Get an accurate list of all ingredients for each food item you produce, including compound ingredients and processing aids.

Step 2: Assess ingredients

Assess each ingredient to determine whether it is an allergen by:

Step 3: Keep a food allergen matrix

Start an allergen table or matrix where you list your food products and identify any allergens in their ingredients.

Use a format that's easy for staff to check and convey to your customers. Educate your staff on how to interpret the information.

Once you have a matrix, update it whenever you add to or change your menu.

Step 4: Identify cross-contamination risks

Identify cross-contamination risks at your premises by assessing all food preparation and storage processes.

To ensure allergenic food doesn't contaminate non-allergenic food, keep preparation areas and equipment separate and thoroughly clean equipment after use.

Food intolerance

A food intolerance is a broad term that describes a range of adverse reactions to foods. While not life threatening, these can be uncomfortable and debilitating.

Common items that can cause intolerance include:

  • lactose in cow’s milk
  • flavour enhancers like monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • food additives
  • strawberries, citrus fruits and tomatoes
  • wine
  • histamine and amines.

Unlike food allergens, labelling of substances that cause food intolerance is not mandatory.

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