With thanks to AVEQIA for the delicious breakfast and brilliant event space and to sponsors IndiCater – who are finding that their clients are increasingly looking for how allergy information can be used within their hospitality software.
This morning a discussion took place on the importance of catering for allergies. Leading the talk were Gather & Gather’s Kate Taylor and Barry Moore – Barry is a trustee of the Anaphylaxis Campaign. The room was a varied group including large and small contract caterings, head chefs, restaurants groups and more. It made for a passionate and insightful discussion.
There was genuine industry engagement of recognising the challenge or managing the allergen community, within Food Service and beyond. Whilst a grey area that surrounds the important issue, people did seem to want to get involved.
The below video was shown first to highlight this topical and emerging challenge facing the sector. Barry, Performance Director, spoke of his personal association with the campaign, his daughter is anaphylactic and allergic to most nuts.
The video is powerful and emotional: click here or below to view
Current: European legislation was brought in, in December 2014 and Barry explained how there has been a mixed response. As well as recent news of a restaurant owner being convicted of manslaughter by proving a meal which was falsely promoted as nut-free.
The hope is that this is the start of a debate which will include the shape, education, lessons, best practice and become the benchmark for the future.
Kate Taylor, Nutritionist and Account Director, explained how nutrition has transformed and is far more than a system for the sector. Education plays a vital role in ensuring those linked to the food know of the potential allergies. There is also a change in food for playing an important role in the well-being of employees and customers. The predication is this will become a big thing, with food and allergy knowledge no longer a side journey.
How nutrition impacts lifestyle?
With clients and customers asking more of their catering, with both lifestyle and productivity becoming essential. Kate explained how this isn’t just food but also sleep time, how days are planned, feeling refreshed. The danger is it all becomes a system and we forget that education is needed to ensure more people know of the importance. Allergies are very much a part of moving forward with well-being.
Today there are over 200 food items which people can be allergic too with young people associated with the highest risk. Education ensures those who suffer to carry their EpiPen (epinephrine injection) with them at all times. This includes removing the stigma around carrying them. A question was posed if those serving food should stock the pens but there is a risk of them going out-of-date and at the moment being subscribed to an individual. However, it was argued that some airlines carry the pens on their flights.
What challenges are we facing?
Cross-contamination is a threat and questions were asked of the need to look at things differently. We know more about food poisoning but many do not understand. Is education needed with the medical world, as well as chefs? Was asthma in a similar position 20 or 30 years ago?
Do those serving need to have the correct information when asked what certain meals include? If a customer wants to know do they need to ask the waiter, manager and then chef to find the answer? There is the feeling of embarrassment and feeling like it is a complaint rather than a question.
Marks & Spencers and Waitrose provide detailed information on their packaging and catering does not match this detail. It was argued that the pressures of a modern kitchen and skills shortages impact this. As does language barriers with both back and front of house.
Legislation: Some high profile chefs questioned recent laws on allergies and argued it would hurt smaller businesses. These comments were met with mixed reactions. The recent landmark case is now on everyone’s radar.
The point was raised that during manufacturing a supplier may argue their product is free-from but during distribution it becomes into contact with other ingredients. It is difficult for those in the sector because the consumer does not always take into account the cost associated with sourcing from a more expensive but safer source.
Research is taking place into the psychological impact of having to cope with an allergy. As well as research into how with diets are changing with the growth of processed food and more is sourced from around the world. The heritage of food has changed dramatically in modern times.
Barry explained how the Anaphylaxis Campaign have created a ‘Corporate Food Panel’ which focuses on life-threatening allergies. They are working hard but now seek deeper links with the sector, especially in food service.
The ending points from the passionate discussion were how some may be migrating risks rather than providing the best service. So therefore an education needs to take place to ensure more know of the impact and need to change. As well as removing any stigma and increasing mindfulness. Were does the customer responsibility stop and the caterers start? A cross-section of the industry now needs to do more as a group ans educational awareness must be the first focus of the campaign.