Be Allergy Aware
Now the festive season is upon us, it is vital that you and your staff are vigilant when it comes to allergen information.
On the whole, customers with food allergies and intolerances are more confident about eating out since the allergen information rules were introduced in 2014*. However, with over 2 million people in the UK having a food allergy and an estimated 1 in 100 people suffering with coeliac disease*, it is critical that during the busiest time of the year customer awareness and staff knowledge is faultless.
“Everyone should be able to trust their food. When people live with a food allergy or intolerance that can make them really ill or be life threatening, that trust becomes critical,” said Heather Hancock, chairman of the Food Standards Agency.
Here’s a gentle reminder to make sure your festivities run smoothly…
Brush up on your knowledge
“Staff training and communication between front and back of house is essential to maintain standards,” says Sarah Collard, Coeliac UK. All staff should be trained and prepared to answer any customer queries regarding allergens and gluten free. Before taking orders offer information about allergens to the table – knowing your facts about the ingredients in dishes will give customers confidence in your establishment and the food they are ordering.
Highlight dishes on your menu that contain allergenic ingredients using different warning icons customers can refer to at a glance. Have a separate menu for gluten-free diners too. You can only claim a dish is gluten free if the level of gluten in it is 20ppm or less. Make sure you label your drinks and side dish menus too. See box for more details.
The festive period is a frantic, busy time for everyone. However, taking an extra minute to double check could stop a lot of unnecessary stress in the long term. When customers arrive at their table ask them to notify you of any allergies or food intolerances. Once ordered double check that no one has an allergy or food intolerance. If an ordered dish contains a key allergy ingredient (such as nuts) notify the customer. If a particular dish has an ingredient that could cause an allergic reaction, chef should notify waiting staff before service starts and also flag it up to waiting staff when these dishes are ordered.
Make it simple
The Food Standards Agency has a variety of posters and templates that make allergy awareness simple to understand and become part of your daily process. Print and pin up around the kitchen or front of house. Visit food.gov.uk/businessindustry/allergy-guide/allergen-resources to find out more.
Information on allergenic ingredients must be either:
• Written up front (for example on a menu or menu board) without the customer having to ask for information
• Signposted to where written information can be found or obtained
• Signposted to say that oral information can be obtained from a member of staff
• Provided orally – in this case this must be consistent and verifiable (i.e. a business must have processes in place to capture information from recipes or ingredients lists from products bought in, and make this available to staff)