A recipe for success when dealing with allergens

As the full-time nutritionist for Gather & Gather, Kate Taylor sees the foodservice industry from a slightly different perspective. Kate has joined the “Eat Well, Live Well” campaign that seeks to promote great tasting healthy foods and diets as well as the education needed around the subject. In this blog she discusses a positive way to view the upcoming changes in allergy legislation.

The UK is one of the top three countries with the highest reported incidence of food allergy (The Allergic Invasion, 1999) and the jury is still out on why. Given this alarming statistic it’s still one of the least researched areas when it comes to health and there is little or no funding available for studies to be undertaken. Yet for those living with an allergy (or even an intolerance) consuming food and drink, in particular outside of the home can be something people fear with their life.

Working in the food industry questions about allergenic ingredients are something our teams are commonly asked. This issue cannot be ignored by any food business operator with the new Food Information Consumers Regulation coming into force in December. As it’s the biggest change in food labelling legislation in the last 20 years many businesses and individuals are feeling a little apprehensive. Taken at face value it’s another piece of paperwork, or an extra thing to do each day, but by thinking creatively we can use this change to improve our staff knowledge and increase customer loyalty.

In the contract catering industry, the requirement of food allergy information to be available for each and every item on the menu is perhaps going to be the biggest challenge. There will no doubt be new processes to follow and documentation to complete. But it shouldn’t just be a pen to paper exercise or the responsibility of a central administration team as they aren’t the ones delivering the information to the customer.

Teams need to be empowered to not only know what’s in the food they serve but also how to relay this information to the customer. It starts with the basics: what are the fourteen recognised allergens and where can they be found? Teams need to understand the symptoms of food allergies and implications of providing incorrect information. Chefs and managers should be responsible for delivering this information to all other staff working with them during service and somewhere along the line it will need to be documented for traceability. Take the positives from this impending legislation: improve the knowledge of your own staff, increase the trust your customers have for your service and this could ultimately lead to an increase in sales and a well-respected reputation.

A trustworthy and knowledgeable source of information provides customer loyalty. As human beings when something impresses us, we talk about it and share experiences. On the flip side of that we also talk about things that don’t meet expectations.

For more information on EP and the different campaigns we are running, please contact Nicole Thompson

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