In the Uk, it’s estimated that 1-2% of adults, and 5-8% of children have a food allergy. That’s about 2 million people, and we’re not including intolerances like celiac disease, which is believed to be much higher.
It used to be a rarity, having someone with an allergy or intolerance coming into your eatery, now it’s something you see every day, and multiple times per day too.
As a food establishment in the UK, businesses are required to take certain tests so that you are up-to-date with the latest food allergies and to give you the knowledge to deal with people who have an allergy. No one wants to end up like PRET, after the story of the girl and her allergic reaction to a sandwich on a plane exploded in the media…
In fact, there’s now a whole new law, which came into play in October 2021, following this incident, called Natasha’s Law. The new legislation means that all foods made by operators on the premises that are pre-packaged for direct sale, must provide a full ingredient and allergen labelling.
You probably know the key 14 allergens, but just in case you need a refresh, they are: celery, cereals (gluten), eggs, crustaceans, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, peanut, sesame, soya, sulphites, tree nuts. And on top of this, there are intolerances such as gluten and dairy. Not to mention the increasing number of people choosing to eat plant-based.
In a study by Delifrance, they asked customers what would make shopping with a food allergy easier, they said: better labelling, signage highlighted, separated allergen products, more choice, and better staff knowledge.
Most of these are things we, as caterers, can do. We can all brush up on our knowledge – if you haven’t yet taken the time to really understand Natasha’s Law, do so – and we can all do a little more to make sure any allergens are highlighted through visible signage.
There are a lot of small changes businesses can make to be more accommodating to people with allergies.
HERE ARE OUR TOP TIPS:
1. If you make your own products in-store, especially bakery products, think about whether you can adapt any recipes, without compromising on flavour, to suit an allergen diet – you may find this also crosses over with people who are vegan and vegetarian. There are so many options available now, including brilliant animal product alternatives.
2. Label your products properly. Customers are time-poor and if they can’t spot what they want easily, they won’t stick around long to ask. Whether it’s labelling products on the shelf or properly annotating a menu, be sure to do it clearly. If customers with allergies know they can trust you to have good, free-from options on the menu, they’ll come back (and tell others!).
3. Make sure your products are segregated properly. If you’re making something that’s allergen-free, be sure to make sure there’s no contamination from other products. And when it’s ready, the same applies with how you store it. If you can, make an allergen-free area in your kitchen. Label certain chopping boards and knives allergen-free too. This will also help remind the chef that they need to prepare the food with extra care.
4. Whether you sell food in a shop or in a restaurant, having a separate menu, which highlights in detail all allergens included in each dish or food item, is essential. Even a printout will do – it’s old school but it’s all about giving the customer confidence.
5. Train your staff. This is one of the most important things for businesses in the hospitality industry. Just one bad experience in an eatery, because a member of staff doesn’t know their hypoallergenic info, can really damage the customer’s review of a place. And more importantly, if the wrong information is given to a customer, the consequences could be life-threatening.
To receive the full report from Delifrance, click here – https://www.delifrance.com/uk/food-hypersensitive-consumers-report