The BHA calculated the cost based on the fact that 8bn meals are served out of home every year: with up to 2 per cent of the UK population suffering from food allergies, requests for information could reach 160m.
Taking five minutes to deal with each request at an all-in cost of £15 an hour takes the bill up to £200m.
The association even warned that this cost could be much higher as NHS figures state that though 2 per cent of the population have been diagnosed, up to 20 per cent think that they have undiagnosed food allergies.
According to the BHA, the challenge will be even greater for restaurants that frequently change recipe or menu items, pop-up or event caterers, venues with high staff turnover and smaller establishments, which may struggle to find the resources to track, identify and record all allergens used throughout the menu.
Jackie Grech, policy director for the BHA, said: “These new regulations are coming into force this autumn and will make it easier for people to get information about which allergies are present in the food they are eating out of home.
“Food businesses will be expected to learn how best to communicate these new regulations to their customers, and the BHA is today launching a toolkit, forum and workshops to help food businesses of all sizes.”
The BHA’s guidance toolkit was designed by its food advisory team,as well as members and law firm Bond Dickinson, and is available for free to all members from today 26 August.
Additionally, the organisation has organised a series of regional roadshows from September to December 2014 to help businesses get up to speed on the legislation and what’s required of staff.
Allergen regulation regional roadshows
- Monday 8 September: SCOTLAND: 3.30 p.m. at Scottish Enterprise, Apex House,99 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 5HD
- Wednesday 17 September: WALES: 3.30 p.m. at St Brides Spa Hotel, St Brides Hill, Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, SA69 9NH
- Thursday 25 September: LONDON: 3.00 p.m. at Melia White House, Albany Street, Regent’s Park, London, NW1 3UP
- Tuesday 14 October: NORTHERN: 10.00 a.m. at Low Wood Hotel, Low Wood Bay, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1LP
- Thursday 23 October: SOUTH WESTERN: 3.30 p.m. at Calcot Manor, Nr. Tetbury, Gloucestershire, GL8 8YJ
- Tuesday 28 October: HEART OF ENGLAND: 10.30 a.m. at The Legacy Falcon Hotel, Chapel Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6HA
- Monday 10 November: SOUTH EASTERN: 10.30 a.m. at Brooklands Hotel, Brooklands Drive, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 0SL
- Monday 17 November: WALES (again): 1.00 p.m. at The Empire Hotel, 73 Church Walks, Llandudno, LL30 2HE
- Wednesday 19 November: EASTERN: 2.00 p.m. at DoubleTree by Hilton, Granta Place, Mill Lane, Cambridge, CB2 1RT
- Monday 8 December: SCOTLAND (again): 3.30 p.m. at Crieff Hydro, Strathearn House, Ferntower Road, Crieff, Perthshire PH7 3LQ
Despite the looming deadline, almost half of food businesses are still unaware of the upcoming changes, according to Unilever Food Solutions, which has also released a guide on the topic.
The new law, which covers 14 of the most common allergens found in food, involves investment in relevant staff straining, as customers and enforcement officers are entitled to ask any member of staff for information about ingredients.
If a member of staff is unsure of the answer to a customer's question, they must ask somebody who knows, but everyone should know where the information is stored, as all information must be verifiable.