How Allergen Aware Are You?

Monica Or, columnist and Hospitality Consultant at Star Quality Hospitality Consultancy discusses why it is time to update and refresh your knowledge..

It has recently been reported in the press that in 2015 a student who had an allergy to nut, diary and fish had informed the barman of this when placing her order. She took advice from the staff as to what she could eat. Within an hour she collapsed and died three days later in hospital. She suffered a catastrophic brain injury as a result of a cardiac arrest due to eating a chicken burger that was marinated in buttermilk. According to a report in The Metro (12 Jan 2018) the then Assistant Manager added that none of the company’s processes had changed since the incident as far as he was aware.

Cases like this unfortunately highlight how important it is to keep all our staff updated on their allergens knowledge. Although it is not just about the knowledge. Once a customer informs you of an allergy, you also have to take in to account the systems and processes in place to ensure this is communicated clearly to all staff during service.

A quick refresher:
The EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation came in to force in December 2014. For Food businesses this means information needs to be provided to customers on the 14 allergens used as ingredients for any food and drink sold on your premises. This can be provided verbally by your staff or in writing. Many food establishments now carry recipe cards with detailed allergen information on.

The 14 allergens are
– celery
– cereals that contain gluten (including wheat, rye, barley and oats)
– crustaceans (including prawns, crabs and lobsters)
– eggs
– fish
– lupin (lupins are common garden plants, and the seeds from some varieties are sometimes used to make flour)
– milk
– molluscs (including mussels and oysters)
– mustard
– tree nuts – such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts
– peanuts
– sesame seeds
– soybeans
– sulphur dioxide and sulphites (preservatives that are used in some foods and drinks)

According to the Food Standards Agency for your customer ‘the allergen information rules mean that:
– You can ask for information about these 14 allergens, if used as an ingredient in the food you are buying, when you eat out
– You will see allergenic ingredients emphasised (for example, using bold, italics or colours) on prepacked foods’

According to Allergy Accreditation (2017):
2% of the population in the UK have a registered allergy
20 million people have intolerances to certain ingredients

Here are some Top Tips to keep your customers safe:
– Always ask your customers if they have any allergies you should be made aware of
– Recommend only the dishes that are safe for them to eat from your menu
– Have recipe cards available with full information on allergens that can be shown to your customer and used to check your facts
– If there is any doubt – always check and double check
– Ensure all staff – both back and front of house are alerted of customers that have allergies

January is #allerjanuary an initiative set up to remind food providers to update and refresh their knowledge on Allergens. So take part and ensure all your staff are allergy aware.

About Monica Or: As the founder of Star Quality Hospitality Consultancy, Monica specialises in working operationally with the owner/managers of independent hotels and restaurants focusing on their business structure and service delivery. She is the Amazon Best Selling author of ‘Star Quality Hospitality – The Key to a Successful Hospitality Business’ and ‘Star Quality Experience – The Hotelier’s Guide to Creating Memorable Guest Journeys’.
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