Be Allergy Aware
It’s been almost six months since the allergen legislation came into force last December. The EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation 1169/2011 requires food businesses to provide allergy information to customers on food sold unpackaged – that means all dishes in restaurants, cafes and bars.
While some caterers have taken to the new measures like ducks to water, others are finding it a challenge – and the major issue appears to be with serving staff.
“The problem with eating out when you are a coeliac is that when you are placing your order, you are putting your health in someone else’s hands,” said Katie Hinchliffe, trading controller, Today’s. “The first issue seems to arise with servers not knowing or being confused with what the ingredients are in the food served. The second is that they are unaware of the health issues associated with the intake of wheat/gluten to those who are intolerant.”
To prevent any minor or severe mishaps, Take Stock has compiled some helpful tips to help a customer’s order run as smooth – and safe – as possible…
Available to print off from the Food Standards Agency website, chef cards are designed for customers to list the foods they are allergic to. Put one (or more if requested) on every table and get waiting staff to encourage customers to complete and pass on to the chef. This makes chefs aware of any food allergies – taking the pressure off everyone.
Don’t ‘take a gamble’
Explain to serving staff that they shouldn’t feel embarrassed or awkward if, when questioned by customers, they are not aware of all the ingredients in a dish. Instead, they should make a polite retreat and check – and never make a dangerous guess or assumption.
Use your head
If someone orders a salad and you know it contains croutons, or a chilli con carne where peanut butter has been used to thicken it, don’t be afraid to point this out. The customer may have been unaware of the potential hazard. Showing initiative proves they are in good hands and will make them more likely to return.
Labelling on the menu
Proper labelling makes it easy for the customer to see what they can order and avoids any potential misunderstandings over information supplied by busy or badly-prepped waiting staff.
Don’t ‘eye roll’
It may get tedious having to constantly reel off the list of ingredients in a dish, or answer the same question over and over, but remember how important (in some cases a matter of life and death) giving the correct information is. Always show compassion and professionalism.
Note it down
Before service, get chef to run through all the specials and make sure all staff write them – and the ingredients – down on their notepads. No customer expects waiting staff to remember everything but if they have information to hand it is more efficient than constantly going away to ask.
Who can’t eat what?
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy
Meat, poultry, fish and eggs
Lacto-ovo vegetarian –
Meat, fish and poultry
Gluten free/Coeliac disease –
Wheat, barley and rye
Nut allergy –
Most commonly peanuts and
cashews, but can include all nuts
Foods identified as allergens
These are the foods that have been noted as relating to allergies and must be identified on menus.
Crustaceans – prawns, crabs, lobster, crayfish
Peanuts and nuts
Cereals containing gluten, namely:
wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan
wheat), rye, barley, oats
Molluscs – clams, mussels, oysters
Avoid the headlines – A Warning
In March, an Indian-restaurant owner was charged with manslaughter by gross negligence – the first case of its kind in Britain – after a customer with a severe peanut allergy died after eating a curry. Paul Wilson, 38, suffered an anaphylactic reaction after eating food from the The Indian Garden in Easingwold, North Yorkshire.