How to manage allergens as a sweet retailer

How to manage allergens as a sweet retailer

Several allergy-awareness events take place in April and May to highlight the issues faced by people with a food allergy or food intolerance.

We’ve previously published several blogs offering advice to sweet retailers, from identifying your target market to selling sweets online. Every one of these retailers – big, small, online or brick-and-mortar – is responsible for managing allergens in their store.

As a sweet retailer, you’re now also subject to the rules set out in Natasha’s Law, the legislation introduced in October 2021 and named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after unknowingly consuming sesame seeds in a sandwich she bought.

This tragic event has led to tighter regulations on food allergens, and it’s crucial for sweet retailers to check that shop policies are up to date and are followed correctly.


Common allergens in confectionery

Clearly not every food allergy will be an issue for candy retailers. The full list of common allergens includes 14 ingredients which must be highlighted in bold on product labels:

  • Celery
  • Cereals that contain gluten
  • Crustaceans (e.g. prawns, crabs, lobster)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lupin
  • Milk
  • Molluscs (e.g. mussels, oysters)
  • Mustard
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame
  • Soybeans
  • Sulphur dioxide
  • Sulphites (at concentrations over 10ppm)
  • Tree nuts (e.g. almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans, pistachios and walnuts)

If a food intolerance or allergy is not listed above, it does not mean that a customer could not have a severe reaction to it – so it’s a good idea to have a clearly visible sign advising customers to ask if they have a food allergy.

Some of the above are more relevant to confectioners than others – for instance, your products are more likely to contain milk and nuts than prawns and oysters. I’s important to check, however, especially in products with unusual flavours or textures.


Who’s responsible for allergen information?

If you sell food products, including sweets, it’s your duty to ensure that your products are correctly labelled. However, your suppliers should be able to give you all of the information you need, so you don’t have to test food independently.

Products you buy pre-packaged should have the appropriate labelling in place, including any allergenic ingredients. Be sure to preserve this labelling if you transfer wholesale sweets into smaller boxes or bags ready for resale.

Home-made sweets are more difficult. While you might know what ingredients are in them, you should still warn customers if there is a risk of cross-contamination with allergens, especially if the product was made in a domestic kitchen rather than a commercial kitchen designed for the highest levels of hygiene.


How to display allergen information in-store

Remember, the labelling guidelines apply no matter whether you sell one or all of the following:

  • Pre-packaged confectionery
  • Loose/unwrapped sweets
  • Pick ‘n’ mix
  • Self-packaged confectionery (e.g. bagged from a jar at customer’s request)

If it’s not practical to label every single bag with allergen information, make sure the relevant information is clearly visible to the customer at the place where they choose the product – for example, by having jar sweets on the shelf within reading distance.

When even this is not possible, have a clear sign that tells customers to ask for allergen information, and make sure your employees are able to give this information if asked.

You can also make your store more accessible by stocking a range of dietary sweets. For instance, customers who are allergic to eggs or milk will commonly look out for vegan products, so you can support them by displaying these products clearly.

Food intolerances can be deadly, so it’s important to see this as more than just a chore. Take it seriously and you can show your customers that you care, while keeping everyone safe from a severe allergic reaction so that they can enjoy their sweets with no worries.