13th December 2014 – if you’re in the food industry this is a date you should have firmly in your diary! For those that aren’t sure as to the significance of that date, it’s the date that the new food information for consumer laws (EU FIC) will be introduced into the UK that will require food businesses to provide allergy information on any food sold unpackaged, for example in catering outlets, deli counters, bakeries and sandwich bars.

These new Food Allergy law changes will be enforced in 2014 to comply with the new EU FIR 1169/2011 law on the provision of food information to consumers. Evidence suggests that most food allergy incidents can be traced back to non-prepacked food, therefore information on potential allergens should always be provided to the consumer and as such businesses now need to comply with the regulation changes by December 2014.

So what’s changing in 2014?

To comply with the new Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC) legislation, food businesses will need to provide information to consumers about the allergenic ingredients in the foods they sell. This means that if there is a food product which contains or uses an ingredient or processing aid derived from one of the 14 substances or products listed below, regardless of the level of use, businesses will need to provide this information to consumers unless the ingredient or processing aid is no longer present in the food in neither its original or altered form.

These 14 substances or products are:

  1. Cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut or their hybridised strains)
  2. Crustaceans
  3. Peanut
  4. Egg
  5. Fish
  6. Lupin
  7. Milk
  8. Molluscs
  9. Nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan nut, Brazil nut, pistachio nut and Macadamia nut
  10. Soybean
  11. Sesame
  12. Celery
  13. Mustard
  14. Sulphur dioxide (>10mg/kg or 10mL/L in ready to eat or reconstituted products)

All mandatory allergen ingredients information (Article 9 (1) (c)) should be available and easily accessible for the consumer. It is NOT acceptable to simply say “all of our dishes contain / may contain traces of allergens”, you MUST detail every allergen for each menu item individually. Read more about the technical requirements of the Food Information Regulations.

Advice from the Food Standards Agency suggests that “All mandatory allergen information should be available and be easily accessible to the consumer.”

This has already and will continue to cause, many food business owners headache’s with yet more food information needing to be declared to the customer. In a fast paced environment it can be very difficult to ensure this information will be communicated effectively and not to break the law but thankfully there are some tools that can help alleviated some of this stress and concern as well actually improve other areas the business too – and one of those tools is Digital Menu Boards.

Why Digital Menu Boards?

The speed at which businesses can update menu information using digital menu boards is a substantial advantage. Depending on the digital menu board solution, changes can be made almost instantly.

Displaying different menu content at different times of day can be achieved easily using scheduling functionalities for various digital menu board solutions. This provides creative flexibility to not overcrowd your menus with all of your items and their information but segment them into different periods.

The new regulation requires a large amount of information to be declared to the customer. By using digital menu boards, it is possible to restructure your menu designs an unlimited number of times to incorporate all of this information.

Future Proof
This is the latest round of food information declaration law changes but who’s to say that it is not going to change again? By using digital menu boards, your hardware or “real estate” is installed and all you need to do is update the content meaning, no matter what information your business will be required to declare in future, you can meet those requirements much more effectively, both in terms of time and money.

There are many more benefits to implementing digital menu boards for your food business away, from the food information side, for example, digital menu boards can also help to reduced perceived customer waiting times, increase average order values, reduce menu printing costs and increase customer satisfaction amongst others.

How to use Digital Menu Boards to comply with food labelling laws:

There are several ways businesses can communicate nutritional and allergen information to customers using digital menu boards and below we have highlighted a couple of areas to help provide inspiration:

Touch screen
Listing your items in an ‘overview’ format and then touch each item to expand into more detailed information about the item including nutritional and allergen content. Here is a quick example of how this could potentially be applied:

Video content
Create animated video content using programs like After Effects, Final Cut and Windows Movie Maker to highlight products and their labelling detail. This will keep customers engaged, watching the content animate but also communicate the labelling information required by law.

Static Image or Text
Generate your menu board information by layering images and/or text fields to display the full labelling information required for each item. This would work well for menus with low number of items. If your business needs to reduce the number of items on a menu due to the amount of information needed to display, then use scheduling functions and playlisting to rotate content. This will help retain a creative impact and still deliver the important information.

Scrolling Text
Introduce a scrolling text bar at the top or bottom of your digital menu layout to scroll through the list of allergen information related to specific products. Make sure that you identify the products with allergenic information are clearly marked (perhaps graphically with icons) to draw customers’ attention to the allergen information scrolling.

What Types of Digital Menu Board are there?

There are several types of digital menu boards and it is certainly not a “one size fits all” product. Below we have outlined some of the varieties available however you can also download the Eclipse Digital Media Guide to Digital Menu Boards 2013. Look out for the 2014 guide due for release in the coming months and will include further digital menu board products.

Eclipse Digital Media Digital Signage Solutions - Digital Menu Boards - Allergy Information Tablet Display Online / Cloud Based Digital Signage Content Management Systems:
Using the embed signage online digital signage platform you can easily create and distribute menu board content to wide variety of connected media players including touch content to tablets and smartphones. The online cloud solution provides great creative flexibility to create various content types and schedule them to appear on specific devices at specific times.

LAN Networked Digital Signage Media Players:
IP based media players that run their own built in software. Can publish multi media, multi zone content to unlimited number of connected subscriber media players. Various levels of media player also include WiFi, DVB-T TV cards and HD Capture. See embed enterprise digital menu boards for more information.

USB Updated All In One Digital Displays:
Built in media players, capable of playing looped full screen content of images or movies. Sizes range from 7” to 55” displays. See embed signage usb digital menu boards for more information.

Need some Digital Menu Board advice?

With the new changes, now is the right time to act! Discover how digital menu boards can help your food business, not only meet the ever increasing demands of legislation, but also help to improve your operational efficiency, brand perception and sales.

If your business needs some advice on what digital menu board solution is right for you, please get in touch with your questions or leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help where we can.

Don’t leave it too late… remember – 13th December 2014

Related Article: Top Benefits and ROI of Digital Menu Boards

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