The new EU law regulating allergen information might be typical EU; long and rather boring. The not so boring bit is the penalties. In the UK non-compliance with this particular piece of legislation is a criminal offence attracting a level 5 penalty on the Standard Scale: that’s up to 6 months at Her Majesty’s Pleasure and/or a fine of between £5,000 and £60,000 depending on whether anyone actually died from ingesting, for example, an undisclosed peanut.
With this in mind, in many ways you could consider that Spanish authorities reportedly offering a “light” penalty of just €15,000 per offence is rather forgiving. The UK started enforcement in April 2015 and Spanish businesses were given until July 1st 2015 by the EU to get their allergy affairs in order. That deadline has passed.
At the moment unannounced inspections from officers of Spain’s AICA (Agencia de Información y Control Alimentario) are offering advice, but the AICA have a recent history of wide-ranging prosecutions (like prosecuting 110 food companies for, amongst other things, “poor filing” just last month, read it here), so it’s only a matter of time before advice turns to enforcement.
On the Costa Blanca in Spain, Spanish AICA inspectors have been visiting food retailers large and small in Ciudad Quesada, La Marina, Torrevieja, Guardamar, Benijofar and Benimar. Given the fact that established restaurants, hotels, care homes, bars, bistros, pubs, and even market traders on Lemon Tree Lane market in Guardamar have all been targeted, people could face prosecution for non-compliance sooner rather than later.
Who The Regulations Apply To
Anyone serving or selling food to the public needs to abide by the legislation: bars, restaurants, bistros, market traders, hoteliers, care homes, hospitals, pubs and gastro-pubs; even companies that sell food at a distance, for instance websites that sell wholefood products and their derivatives online.
Compliance with The Allergy Law in Spain
Menu’s must feature icons next to the product being sold highlighting which, if any, of the 14 major allergens are contained within the food offered for sale. Icons must be a minimum of 5mm in height and width, clear, legible, and follow the standardised European Directive on graphical appearance and colour.
A public advice notice must be clearly displayed either on the premises, or within the menu, (or for reasons of due-diligence preferably both), advising members of the public about the risk of allergy from consuming food items within the establishment. The notice should reference the EU 1169/2011 regulation.
Legally, wording and terminology must be in Spanish, even if the business caters to a wholly English clientele. The public advice notice must feature larger, legible and clear icons and wording that follow the standardised European Directive on graphical appearance and colour. Note that the regulations do not define what size “larger” constitutes, but assume bigger is safer.
Every food retailer is required by law to have at least one menu in the Spanish language for inspection by AICA officers and their local council representatives.