In the last few months we have seen evidence of a severe lack in food allergen training in our food service industry, with many fatal accidents being reported within the media.
Well-known high-street chains are being called out for their lack of food allergen awareness and with this in mind, we’ve pulled together a guide on how both consumers and food services businesses can become more food allergy aware.
That is where the problems lie. Is training good enough? Do restaurant workers take this seriously enough? And is everyone fully trained, given the transient nature of restaurant work?
– Professor Chris Elliott, Queen’s University
Recent Food Allergy coverage reported by the Media
- Pret a Manger case shows companies must live up to their promises
- High street chains gave out wrong information on deadly allergens
- Restaurant and cafe chains giving out ‘dangerous’ allergy advice
What can companies do to increase their food allergy awareness?
Companies have a duty of care to their customers, meaning that they need to be transparent about all ingredients that go into their products.
All products that are available to consumers and staff members, must be labelled correctly and clearly, with any ingredients that could be classed as an allergen in bold fony and made clear on all packaging.
However, it’s not just packaging where this information needs to be displayed. All food service companies should have product specification sheets that are easily accessible to staff and customers. These must be kept updated and in good condition at all times.
It is also important to keep all recipes to hand, in case there is anything in the process of making the product that could potentially cause an allergic reaction.
It is the responsibility of the company to ensure that correct food allergen training is provided regularly and staff are tested on their knowledge. A lack of training could mean staff are underprepared to deal with any food allergen queries or emergencies.
How can staff keep up to date with the latest food allergens?
As a staff member, ensuring you are keeping food allergy awareness at the forefront of everything you do, can help to vastly decrease the chances of causing an allergic reaction. This is crucial for both front and back of house in any restaurants, cafes or bars.
It is not just the ingredients that can pose a risk to customers, cross contamination is one of the biggest causes of allergic reactions, so it is important to take proper care and follow all food hygiene guidelines.
If you work in the food services industry and you are aware that you don’t know the full allergens of the food you are serving or preparing, ask your manager to provide proper training.
What can consumers do to ensure they are clued up on a company’s policy and be more food allergy aware?
As consumers, it can be difficult to know what goes into our food, especially when the companies do not make the full ingredients clear on both the packaging and in stores.
If you do have food allergies, always carry any medication you may need, such as an EpiPen, just in case a reaction does take place.
Ensuring you are reading all of the ingredients and being hypervigilant by double checking with staff is always a good way to protect yourself. If you still feel uncertain, ask for the allergen book to check all of the ingredients yourself, or stay away from the product entirely.
If there are certain products you can not eat, make sure you carry a full list with you and make it clear to staff and those around you what they are, and how to handle the situation, should you suffer a reaction.
It takes everybody doing their part with allergy awareness for fatal mistakes to be avoided, so whether you are a consumer, a staff member or a business owner, always make sure you are up to date with your food allergy training and product ingredients.