The consequences of 2014's allergen legislation have been far-reaching. Julie Barker, chair of the University Caterers Organisation, discusses how her industry is tackling any remaining issues
In 2014, EU legislation on allergens was added to the long list of challenges faced by university caterers. But with 59% of allergen suffers saying nothing has changed; 11% reporting that they had found the situation had actually got worse and only 30% believing that eating out is now better, are caterers buying informatively, teaching staff about storage and sharing information with customers effectively?
Over half of allergen suffers (54%) say they feel staff don't understand their requirements - therefore staff training is key to the successful implementation of the allergen legislation. During delivery, handling and storage there is potential for cross-contamination. The easiest way to handle allergens is with the same care that raw meat has always been handled - cleaning surfaces and equipment before and after use, storing key allergens away from other ingredients, making sure they are clearly labelled and changing any production processes that may allow cross-contamination. Staff training can be carried out in small groups by managers, by qualified trainers, online training and also by using the Food Standards Agency resources.
It's important in staff training to convey how it is best to communicate allergen information to the consumer, as a whopping 67% of allergen sufferers weren't given written allergen information to back up any verbal communication - a basic requirement of the legislation. It is crucial to ensure the correct information is available and signposted clearly. The options are simple - an easily accessible allergens list at the till, on the menu or online. It is vital to keep all allergen information up to date and accurate, as in the end it comes down to ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The 14 allergens
Tree nuts (such as walnuts and hazelnuts)
Cereals containing gluten
Celery and celeriac
Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at levels above 10mg/kg)
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