The new allergen legislation might be complicated and time-consuming to implement, but we should welcome it wholeheartedly, says David Parker, executive chef at Leeds Beckett University
I started my new job as executive chef at Leeds Beckett University in September last year. Since then at least 70% of my time has been spent managing the transition over to the new allergen rules on behalf of the university and its conferencing team, Well Met Conferencing.
It has been a long process, since the new legislation requires businesses to have full knowledge of the 14 named allergens in all ingredients. With staff serving both university and conference needs, we have delivered extensive training, working with external food advisors.
It has been a complicated process. From cake with your coffee to hot fork buffets, the job of tracking allergens in each and every ingredient, and the impact this has had and will continue to have on our menus, is exhausting. It demands creative thinking, meticulous planning and a forensic level of attention to detail.
So, time consuming: yes. A cultural step change for our organisation: absolutely. An unnecessary legislative hoop to jump through, which is making our industry increasingly unfair for operators who do not have the resources or the ability to compete in a crowded marketplace? No - not at all.
This legislation is different to others that have come before it for one simple reason: it is aimed squarely at making things better for the consumer. And any legislation that improves things for our customers is to be wholeheartedly welcomed.
An increasing percentage of consumers in the UK suffer from allergies and intolerances, which often make eating out too much of an uphill struggle. We have a duty to serve those customers better. And the rewards are there to be reaped - a new market for starters, a market of consumers who are putting their absolute trust in us, and whose loyalty will no doubt be rewarded by our diligence.