Food Allergen Customer Excellence is one way the UK leads the way across the globe. In the UK & Ireland the method of managing food safely from animal welfare to hygienic practices, that protect consumers, is second to none and Allergen Management has equal standing.
We do have the best chefs in the world and there is no international cuisine that cannot be found in our cities and towns.
We have a new opportunity across these green and pleasant lands to secure another global accolade and this is to be world leaders in how we manage food allergens and how we serve people with allergies in our pubs, schools, restaurants, hospitals and anywhere else that sells or serves food and drink.
To do this we must agree on a common professional standard. The EU FIC is designed to ensure that all intentional ingredients that are allergens be made clear to customers.
This is fantastic and a long awaited set of laws to protect consumers. Manufacturers have done this for many years and tales of consumers checking every label are ubiquitous as more and more consumers need to know what’s in the food and drink they purchase.
More and more consumers are also questioning-the May Contain label- this is a result of the processor or manufacturer identifying through their risk assessment procedures that an un –intentional allergen has come into contact with the dish or drink being manufactured. Let’s face it in a busy factory- or even a busy commercial kitchen- some allergens are going to come into contact with other ingredients!
This is perfectly safe from a food hygiene sense but not so good for the person with an allergy to that ingredient- but they will be satisfied in the knowledge that the supplier has advised them accordingly- for their own protection.
Food Allergen Customer Excellence
So as World Leaders on the subject WE look at our manufacturing and kitchen management practices. We identify where and when allergens do cross contact un-intentionally and mark these allergens on our labels, menus and /or allergen matrices. We manage our kitchens and risk assess the safe passage of foods and beverages and we do this for allergenic ingredients also. WE do NOT as World Leaders simply add a statement to our menus that “as all ingredients are on top of each other in the kitchen we cannot guarantee any foods may or may not contain the allergenic ingredient you’re allergic to!” If we did we might as well state “some of our foods may contain campylobacter and EColi” just to be on the safe side!
Is this easier said than done? Let’s begin with manufacturers who we buy off. Ask them to support any may contain (Or made in a factory with...) statements with their written risk assessments that arrived at this declaration.
Likewise in a busy kitchen the chef and management team need to identify their Food Allergen Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points and assess where allergen do come into contact.
What do we actually mean by this and how do we deal with it?
1: Battered Cod and Chips (Cooked in the same fryer)
Battered Cod- Contains: Wheat, egg, milk, fish
Chips- Contains: Wheat, egg, milk, fish
2: Full English Breakfast (All cooked on the same griddle in a very busy B&B)
With egg, hash brown, bacon, sausage, fried bread
Egg- contains: Egg, Wheat, Sulphites
Hash Brown- Contains: Wheat, Egg, Sulphites
Bacon- Contains: Sulphites, Egg, Wheat
Sausage- Contains: Wheat, Sulphites, Egg
Fried Bread- Contains: Wheat, Egg, Sulphites
On the flip side when we carefully manage the assembly and cooking of a dish where we can identify no cross contact with any non recipe allergens, when we have analysed all and any manufacturer allergen data, when we have operated our full food and allergen safety management principles; we can be confident that the dish that has been prepared only contains exactly what it’s meant to!
Why is this so important? Well we cannot mislead customers. We must declare allergenic ingredients verbally and back this up in writing.
If we simply stated that all our foods may contain any one of the 14 allergens we ARE misleading them (if they don’t). Likewise being ignorant of may contain statements and not passing this onto the customer is misleading.
In order to attain Global Leadership in Food Allergen Customer Excellence we need to ensure Full Allergen Disclosure; therefore combining the EU Law and full disclosure ensures customers will be satisfied that their health and safety is protected: And the business you run is operating at the highest in due diligence and is equally protected.
Businesses are benefiting from Food Allergen Customer Excellence
Catering Businesses like Eden part of Interserve, Artizian, Independent Catering and Harbour & Jones have all had their food allergen systems verified independently (or are in progress) to ensure that they are both EU FIC and Full Allergen Disclosure compliant.
Schools including Abbey Grange Academy in Leeds, Matthew Arnold in Oxfordshire, The Blue School in Somerset and Helenswood in Hastings have a particular keenness to ensure their systems are correct and meet the needs of parents of children with allergies.
Universities that are tasked with feeding allergenic youngsters who may be away from home for the first time have also selected to test their systems. At Pemcat, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, customers can access an allergy free serving zone. Other universities are following suite.
Blue chip venues such as Bluebells in Berkshire and The Brewery in the city of London meet the needs of people with allergies as this is part and parcel of their standard customer care policies, i.e. excellence for all- and this pays dividends for repeat business.
Healthcare and catering training venues are equally dedicated to compliance and making it known to clients and customers that they take allergen management seriously. A great example is the Clink Charity that trains people in foodservice and has venues in Cheshire, Cardiff, London and Surrey.
Catering businesses across ALL sectors consider having their allergen systems verified as the right method to attain the confidence and recognition that they are meeting the industry best practice standard.
These and many more catering businesses are determined to make the UK become the Global Leaders in Food Allergen Customer Excellence!