Ahead of the new EU rules on displaying allergen information that come into force in two days’ time (13 December), just one third of licensees say that they are able to name the 14 allergens covered by the legislation.

Under the new Food Information for Consumers Regulation, pubs will need to provide information on any of the 14 allergens used as ingredients for food and drink. It means publicans must tell customers who ask, either in writing or verbally, whether a menu item contains traces of any of the named allergens.

However, an exclusive survey among readers of M&C Report’s sister title Publican’s Morning Advertiser found only 32% of licensees said they could name all of the allergens, with the same percentage stating that they possibly could.

The 14 allergenic ingredients which will be covered by the new legislation are: celery, crustaceans, eggs, fish, gluten, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, soya and sulphur dioxide.

Operators who fail to provide the correct information could face unlimited fines, but almost four in 10 (38%) licensees were unaware of the penalties for lack of compliance. It is hoped that trading standards enforcement activity will be light-touch as pub retailers get to grips with the legislation.

The survey paints a picture of a trade unconvinced about the need for the new rules. More than half of respondents (57%) said they were ‘hardly ever’ asked by customers about allergen information and almost two-thirds (64%) deemed the new legislation unnecessary.

While not overly concerned about the impact of the new rules on their pub — just one-fifth said they are ‘worried’ or ‘very worried’ — one in 10 admitted to being not at all prepared for this weekend’s introduction.

In terms of business preparation, six in 10 had undertaken extra staff training, with employees verbally explaining allergens to customers named as the top choice when asked what actions they had put in place to help with compliance.

Other popular options included allergen statements on menus and an allergen sheet given to customers. One fifth of respondents have designed and printed a separate allergen menu.

Allergy charities have welcomed the new rules, claiming they will provide more certainty for sufferers in managing their condition when eating out. Research also shows that allergy sufferers, and those with whom they eat out, are worth hundreds of millions of pounds a year to venues willing to provide allergen-free dishes.

Despite this, overall, more than three-quarters (77%) of licensees didn’t think the legislation was a positive move for the trade.

The online poll was completed by a self-selecting sample of 256 licensees.