Operators can’t afford to let standards slip on allergens

The news that restaurant delivery company Deliveroo is making major changes to the way allergen content is shown on the menus it displays should probably come as no surprise to operators.

The issue moved back to the top of the news agenda during and after the inquest into the tragic death of student Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after eating a sandwich containing sesame seeds. This is one of  the 14  allergens which must be indicated in list of ingredients under the Food Information Regulations 2013, but with an exception for some dishes made freshly on the premises.

Environment secretary Michael Gove has now promised a review of the law as it stands, followed by a consultation, with a view to tightening up the rules, in what is being called ‘Natasha’s law’.

Deliveroo is one of the businesses taking action in advance of any such change. With around 15,000 restaurants in the UK expected to be signed up to Deliveroo by the end of the year, it affects many operators. Until now, restaurants have been unable to display allergen information for each dish on the delivery app, but Deliveroo’s new tool will offer dish-by-dish detail – which means restaurants will have to provide the information.

It’s now almost four years since the new rules came into force, and it’s inevitable that some business will have allowed the attention they pay to monitoring the ingredients in dishes to slip. In the current challenging environment, it’s also very likely that the suppliers of  some key ingredients have changed. Our advice to operators is:

  • Ensure that you have up-to-date ingredients lists for all dishes on the menu;
  • Remind all kitchen staff of the importance of flowing recipes and never substituting ingredients;
  • Review the information that you have available for customers who ask about allergens, whether in print or online;
  • Remind all your suppliers that you require information on the ingredients of all food and drink products you buy.

Reassuring customers that you are fully able to provide allergen and ingredient information not only keeps a business on the right side of the law, it can also increase trade. Research shows that food allergy sufferers eat out roughly half as often as the national average, and many lack confidence that asking front of house staff about allergens is safe and reliable. With one in four UK households including at least one food allergy/intolerance sufferer, this is a big market to neglect.

With a potential tightening of the law on the cards, it’s more important than ever for operators to work in partnership with reliable suppliers to ensure the correct information is available to customers.  Whether you’re adapting staple menu items, or trying out new dishes, catering to special dietary needs can mean working with new ingredients.  Lynx Purchasing can help identify suppliers and get the best prices.

To ensure that revised recipes are still profitable, the Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App, enables chefs, caterers and restaurant managers to monitor margins in busy kitchens or when negotiating with suppliers, using a smartphone or tablet. To download the FREE App, go to https://www.lynxpurchasing.co.uk/purchasing-expertise/gp-calculator-app/

The 14 allergens covered by the regulations are:

  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Crustaceans – including lobster and crab
  • Molluscs – including mussels and snails
  • Peanuts
  • Nuts – including almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan, Brazil, pistachio,  macadamia
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Sesame seeds
  • Milk
  • Soybeans
  • Celery
  • Mustard
  • Lupin – the seeds are used to make flour in some parts of Europe and beyond
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites – at levels above 10mg/kg or 10mg/litre

 

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