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Top Tips - avoiding problems with allergens regulations

With Summer almost upon us many operators will be developing a fresh new menu to maximise profits over the coming season.  Whilst not wanting to curb any enthusiasm for creative new dishes operators must ensure that they are aware of the allergen content of all food supplied and have the necessary information available for customers upon request.

In an ideal world all customers with allergies will notify you of any potential risks but by having informed staff members and clear information available, risks can be minimised whist providing confidence to customers that they can make an informed decision as to which dishes will be suitable for them.

The Food Standards Agency provides extensive information which can assist with a review of your allergen control practices but here are a few tips to ensure that your patrons leave your premises with only positive comments:

  • There are 14 major allergens: eggs; sesame seeds; milk; tree nuts (such as pine nuts and chestnuts); peanuts; fish; crustaceans (types of shellfish such as prawns); soya (this may be clearly identifiable in soy based products but may also be contained in some processed foods such as sauces and stock cubes); cereals containing gluten; molluscs (types of shellfish such as Mussels); celery; mustard; lupin (this can be found is some flours and can be used to make pastry and batters); Sulphites (these are used as preservatives and can be found in products such as processed meats, soft drinks, pickled foods and dressings);
  • Implement management procedures from back to front of house regarding food storage, preparation and service areas;
    Conduct a Risk Assessment analysis of the dishes you offer and the specific ingredients involved, ensuring that suppliers provide accurate written details about all ingredients used:
  • Prepare clear written documentation identifying the dishes which contain ingredients that may give rise to allergic reactions;
  • Be aware when using garnishes such as nuts or cheese;
  • Provide clear and visible notices informing customers that they can request allergen information.
  • Where possible provide a separate ‘clean’ preparation area for allergen free meals. Care should be taken when using cooking utensils and reusing cooking oils;
  • Reduce the risk of cross-contamination through thorough cleaning and personal hygiene practices;
  • Ensure staff are fully trained on the importance of the identification of allergies and potential medical consequences of failing to do so;
  • Have a clear written policy in the event that something should go wrong regarding administration of First Aid or calling an ambulance, for example.

Failure to ensure your premises comply with the Regulations could result in enforcement action and an unlimited fine in the event of prosecution.  Perhaps more importantly could be the potential harm to your customers or any adverse publicity in the event of any problems.

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