Hospitality companies need to do more to inform consumers about allergens, according to the Dutch food agency.
Many firms in the retail, artisan and catering sector do not properly inform customers about which allergens can be found in food, so are not following the rules, said the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA).
The 14 allergens listed in European regulation are egg, fish, peanut, nuts, soybeans, milk, crustaceans, mollusks, celery, mustard, cereals containing gluten, sesame seeds, sulfur dioxide and sulfites and lupin.
In 2021, the NVWA inspected more than 5,000 companies to see if they complied with the legislation for providing allergen information on non-prepacked goods.
Of almost 3,200 restaurants, hotels and cafeterias, more than 2,000 of them did not meet the requirements.
For artisan producers such as bakeries, ice cream shops and butchers the non-compliance rate was half of the 1,910 outlets. From 471 retailers, including supermarkets, 191 were violating the rules.
NVWA issued nearly 3,400 written warnings and 591 fines of €525 ($548). If an inspector finds a problem, a warning is handed out. The business is given time to remedy the issue. If they continue to be in violation, a fine will be imposed.
Checking allergen information became a permanent part of NVWA risk-based inspections in the sector beginning in 2021. Firms are required to list certain allergens if they have been used in food preparation.
Anyone selling food to consumers must state which of the 14 allergens are present. This can be done in writing via notices in the display case or on the menu, or orally by showing staff can be asked for the information. It must also be available in writing or digitally for staff and inspectors. A notification must be visible to the consumer somewhere, so it is clear how the information can be requested.
The inspection found companies that give allergen details in writing often lack the information directly with the product. For those who provide it verbally, staff can say which allergen is in which product but information is not available in writing or electronically, so inspectors cannot verify it.
In other news, NVWA has fined a company for trading batches of grains, seeds and pulses that did not meet food safety requirements.
A sanction of almost €3.5 million ($3.6 million) was handed down because of the intent and because the company has a turnover of tens of millions euros, said the agency. The importer can appeal the penalty. It was not named by authorities and the investigation is ongoing.
NVWA said firms must withdraw raw materials and foodstuffs from the market if there are reasons to believe they do not comply with food safety regulations. The company must also inform the authority about this in a timely and complete manner.
Officials found it was known by the company that several batches of raw materials did not meet food safety requirements. However, these were not reported to the NVWA and the firm traded them anyway. The NVWA ordered the company to remove potentially harmful products from the market, which the firm did, and the agency blocked the sale of remaining items.