Whether you’re in a high-class restaurant or snatching a quick sausage from an all-night stall, you’ll likely see one or more capital letters next to the food and dishes found in menus or on display boards. Like this:
Each capital letter stands for a particular ingredient found in that food or dish. Not just any ingredient, but “substances or products causing allergies or intolerances”.
EU law demands the display of this allergy information. Here’s the list typically used in Viennese establishments:
A = Cereals containing gluten
B = Crustaceans
C = Eggs
D = Fish
E = Peanuts
F = Soja
G = Milk and/or lactose
H = Nuts
L = Celery
M = Mustard
N = Sesame seed
O = Sulphur dioxide and sulphites
P = Lupins
R = Molluscs
In a few outlets you may not see any capital letters. This does not mean the allergens are absent, just that the outlet has chosen not to provide written information. Instead, it has trained staff to identify the presence of these substances or products on request.
Also, the information may be absent if it’s blatantly obvious. There is no requirement for a restaurant to indicate that your egg salad with mustard dressing may actually contain egg and mustard.
P.S. The list corresponds to the 14 categories given in Annex 2 of the EU’s regulation covering the provision of food information to consumers. If you have food allergies or intolerances, check the original document for fuller details of what each category does and does not cover.