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Caterers must understand mindset of those living with food allergies, expert says

30 January 2020 by

Caterers must work to understand the mindset of those living with food allergies, consultant paediatric allergist, Dr Robert Boyle has said.

Dr Boyle, of Imperial College London, who will address The Caterer's two Allergens Summits in February and May, stressed the impact of a negative or stressful experience and the opportunities for caterers who can create reassuring environments.

He told The Caterer: "It's important for caterers to understand the perspective of people living with food allergies and to get into the mindset of someone who's had an unpleasant experience and is anxious about what they're putting in their mouth and whether they're going to have an embarrassing or worrying reaction that will ruin their day.

"The big concern is that no one is going to take their allergy seriously and they're going to get vague information, or that they'll have to stand up in front of everyone and say I'm allergic to nuts and make a bit of a scene. That can be a significant hurdle to get over, especially for teenagers.

"It's been a great change to see caterers proactively ask customers about allergies, and clear signposting and labelling is really helpful in reassuring allergic customers. If they feel reassured and comfortable, they will return, if not they won't"

Dr Boyle stressed that allergens can be complex, particularly given the unprecedented diversity of our diets, which he said could equate for increasing reports of reactions.

He continued: "I think that increased diet diversity may be part of the reason we're seeing more expressions of food allergies and more events and reactions, because of the immense variety of food we're exposing ourselves to.

"The positive message is that allergic reactions usually resolve spontaneously and it's very rare for them to have a long-term physical consequence. The most common long-term consequence is anxiety and emotional upset, and a frank apology and caring attitude from those responsible for an accident are important first steps to addressing these consequences.

"Fatal or near-fatal reactions appear to be very rare - for someone who knows they have a food allergy, the chance of suffering a fatal allergic reaction is usually lower than their chance of being murdered.

"So the chance of one of your customers dropping dead from an allergic reaction to a food is very low, but the chance of one of your customers having an allergic reaction and complaining about it is very high - allergic reactions are common and often very unpleasant."

The Allergens Summit is the first in a series of 2020 summit events from The Caterer that bring together hospitality professionals to discuss game-changing ideas, industry best practice and new ways of working. They include:

A 'Caterer Summits Bundle' ticket is available where you will receive a place at five Summits for the special price of £792 plus VAT. Your guest may differ at every event. This can be booked here.

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