Catering For Allergies
How should bars and restaurants cater for those with allergies?

Across the globe, children are developing allergies to certain foods at an alarming rate.

According to research carried out by Dr Alexandra Santos of King's College London in 2019, food allergies now affect about 7% of all children worldwide. This naturally causes anxiety and fear for parents who need to keep their children safe from the threat of allergic reactions.

Following the deaths of several British teenagers after ingesting sesame, buttermilk or peanut products due to poor allergy awareness and food labelling, adult diners who have food allergies themselves or parents looking to protect their children are more cautious than ever when it comes to eating out.

Therefore, to set your customers minds at ease and to protect your business against the risk of legal action following the 2014 EU FIC Food Information for Consumers Regulations, here are a few ways that bars, takeaways and restaurants can deal with the issue of allergies and intolerances.

Allergy Training

Education and training

Many of the fatalities and hospitalisations caused by allergens could have been avoided if correct procedures had been followed when working with the list of 14 every day allergens. This list includes nuts, milk, celery, gluten, soya and wheat. The most fundamental of procedures is that the ingredients of any given dish are correctly listed, ideally with allergens highlighted in bold.

Educating staff on these allergens and training them to be aware of cross-contamination is the first step on the road to protecting diners.

Staff should also be given training on how to deal with customers who suffer from allergens and be able to provide comprehensive information on each dish when asked in order to help guests make an informed decision before ordering from the menu.

Removing Allergens

Removing potential allergens

Some restaurants and bars have taken things a stage further, and through fear of causing an allergic reaction to their customers, have made the decision to remove allergens from their menus altogether.

In order to remove margins of error, some have completely removed gluten, peanuts or gone as far as removing all 14 potential allergens and completely overhauling their entire menu in the process.

This may prove to be particularly problematic to many restaurants due to the type of cuisine served and the need to rely on these ingredients to create their dishes, so it may not be a realistic solution for every business.

Instead, it is best to be honest with visitors with allergies and tell them that their menu choices may be limited due to certain ingredients. This means they can decide to look elsewhere for a meal or choose from a smaller selection of allergen-free offerings.

Allergen Communication

Removing potential allergens

Some restaurants and bars have taken things a stage further, and through fear of causing an allergic reaction to their customers, have made the decision to remove allergens from their menus altogether.

In order to remove margins of error, some have completely removed gluten, peanuts or gone as far as removing all 14 potential allergens and completely overhauling their entire menu in the process.

This may prove to be particularly problematic to many restaurants due to the type of cuisine served and the need to rely on these ingredients to create their dishes, so it may not be a realistic solution for every business.

Instead, it is best to be honest with visitors with allergies and tell them that their menu choices may be limited due to certain ingredients. This means they can decide to look elsewhere for a meal or choose from a smaller selection of allergen-free offerings.

Communication

Another critical element of handling food allergens is communication. Many of the fatalities that have occurred in recent years in the UK are due to poor or incorrect ingredients information on menus and packaging. If your businesses uses any of the 14 common allergies as detailed in the 2014 EU FIC Food Information for Consumers Regulations, it is your legal responsibility to communicate their use in your premises.

These ingredients are as follows:

  • Celery
  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Crustaceans
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lupin
  • Milk
  • Molluscs
  • Mustard
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soya
  • Sulphur dioxide as a preservative

It is important to mention here that many of the ingredients listed above may already be contained within foodstuffs that are sourced from third parties. For example, lupin can sometimes be found in certain pasta products, but it is up to the restaurant or bar that serves the pasta to ensure that it communicates if lupin could be present in the dish, not the person that created the pasta in the first place.

Of course, laws governing the manufacture of food and food labelling to include allergy information are already in place, but it is down to the restaurant or bar to do everything they can to check if any allergens are present in the ingredients they use.

To communicate food ingredients, restaurants should note any dishes that contain potential allergens. This can and should be done on printed and online menus by law, but it is good practice to educate any serving staff on dishes that contain any of the 14 common allergens so that they can communicate this to diners.

Many restaurants also have information on their website dedicated to the subject of allergens. This information is there not only to protect the business but to empower visitors to make an educated decision on what to order.

While this is undoubtedly the responsible thing to do, it also offers peace of mind. Any diner or parent of a young diner who suffers from allergic reactions caused by certain ingredients will be reassured that their visit to your venue won't result in a trip to the hospital or worse if it is clear that you take your responsibilities seriously, have knowledgeable staff and clear processes in place to keep guests safe.


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